I figured I'd like "When Perreault Said to Rico..." when it came in the mail the other day. It was written by former Buffalo Sabres executive Paul Wieland, who spent 25 years with the team. (Full disclosure: Paul was one of my many bosses when I worked with the Sabres in the late '80s/early '90s, and he remains a good friend.) Wieland is a man of many stories about the "good old days" in Sabre history, when the team was young and everyone was making it up as they went along.
But the book really was better than I was expecting.
Apparently I hadn't heard every story about the Sabres, because there were plenty of good ones that popped up in the book. The names from the first 10 years of the franchise's history came flooding back, in part because Wieland interviewed many of them for the book -- Gil Perreault, Rick Martin, Danny Gare, Don Luce, Jim Schoenfeld, Jim Lorentz, Jerry Korab. We were all pretty innocent about the hockey business back then, and didn't know that disappointment could lurk around every corner. The players still talk about how remarkable the relationship was between the town and the team. "Thank you Sabres" indeed.
The book makes no attempt to be an encyclopedic look at those days, just a fast-paced accounting of what happened back then. Like when Wieland himself almost became a backup goalie in an actual NHL game. Or how Gare got the nickname of "Tickets." Or how Imlach and Wieland came up with the idea about drafting a fictional player from Japan, and how the two of them kept the joke going right through training camp. The fun goes right through the 200-plus pages, and it's fair to say almost any Sabre fan could enjoy it.
-- Budd Bailey