Craig Rivet wasn't trying to impress anybody. He was just doing what he always does. The way it works, though, is when Rivet acts like himself, people are impressed.
Exhibit A for the public came in the first home preseason game. The Buffalo Sabres were hosting Toronto just a few days after they played up north. In the initial meeting, the Sabres were miffed because of a perceived cheap shot Maple Leafs forward Ryan Hollweg delivered to tough guy Andrew Peters. In the rematch, Rivet saw Hollweg again jabbing his teammates.
It could be a while before Hollweg tries it again. A few fists to the noggin by Rivet may have altered his thinking.
"That wasn't really my focus, to show guys that I'm just going to be there to fight," Rivet said Wednesday. "There are things you never forget. . . . Hollweg tried to take advantage of one of our guys that enforces and has one of the hardest jobs on our team, and that's Peters. And there's always going to be payback. You're not going to take liberties with this team. There's a strong group of guys that care for one another."
The Buffalo fans, seeing the summer's key acquisition for the first time, responded with a loud ovation. It was minutes into his opening game after a July trade from San Jose, and they knew he was a leader.
Rivet's teammates were already aware of the defenseman's character. It shined through weeks earlier at the first offseason workouts.
"He had an instant impact on the guys as soon as he started skating with us at the Pepsi Center," Peters said. "We needed some drills out there, and he was leading the group. He's just a leader. It's in his nature.
"His reputation when he came here, we knew what he was and we knew who he was. I think that when you meet him, you understand why he's got such a good reputation."
Rivet's quick ascension in the minds of the Sabres and their fans received a tangible reward Wednesday. He was named team captain for the 2008-09 season. The players elected him, and coach Lindy Ruff and his staff endorsed the selection.
"It's nice, certainly, when you come in and guys are happy that you came," Rivet said. "I think it does mean a lot. This means a lot to me."
Rivet is the Sabres' first permanent captain since Stu Barnes in 2003. Ruff has used co-captains and a monthly rotation since then. He agreed with the players that it was time to pick one guy to wear the "C."
"We felt this group was old enough and mature enough to have one captain to represent this team," Ruff said. "Part of the process was allowing the players a say in who this captain should be."
Most Sabres grew up together in the organization, and they are a very close group. It says a lot that Rivet has been in town just a couple of months yet has already become a vital part of their hockey family.
"I'm not the star," the 34-year-old said. "I'm going to be a steady guy back there that's just going to go hard and give 150 percent every time on the ice. That's all I can ask from myself, and that's all I ask from other guys, just give 100 percent of what you have. That's what you'll see."
Rivet's warm welcome has been a stunning turn of events for the former alternate captain of Montreal and San Jose. He was comfortable in San Jose and was upset when the Sharks sent him to Buffalo for two second-round draft picks.
"On that day that I did get traded, I'm not going to lie, I wasn't happy," Rivet said. "It wasn't anything to do with Buffalo. It was about me having to move, having to move my family that was comfortable.
"We've put that all behind us. My family, myself, we're extremely happy to be part of this organization. We're very settled. I think Buffalo gets a bad rap. I think once you get here, you realize how great this city is. I tell you, the fans are what makes it. It's going to be a great year."
In other news, the Sabres made two expected roster moves to get to the 23-player limit. Rookie defenseman Mike Weber was sent to the minors, while forward Paul Gaustad was placed on injured reserve.
Weber fell victim to a numbers game. He had a good training camp and a solid finish to last season. But he was one of only a few players who could be sent to Portland of the American Hockey League without clearing waivers. With eight defensemen on the Sabres, Weber simply was the logical selection for the organization.
Gaustad will miss the opening month of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his thumb. The season begins Friday when Montreal visits HSBC Arena.