One of the most prominent media members to cover the franchise's 40 seasons and the greatest single-season goal scorer in team history were the talk of HSBC Arena prior to Saturday's game as they were inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame.
Alexander Mogilny and the family of the late Jim Kelley got huge ovations from the sellout crowd and were presented with silver swords as they were honored at center ice.
Kelley, who passed away at age 61 on Nov. 30 after battling pancreatic cancer, is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame. He won the Elmer Ferguson Award for journalism in 2004 for his work as the longtime hockey beat writer and columnist for The Buffalo News. Three other newspaper men who covered the Sabres have also won the award. One was Kelley's Buffalo News predecessor, the late Dick Johnston.
Kelley started to document the Sabres in 1981 and covered 23 straight Stanley Cup finals. He eventually worked for prominent websites and was a talk show host on the Fan 590 in Toronto. Kelley also wrote columns for Sportsnet.ca, filing one at 1:30 a.m. Nov. 30, just a few hours before his death.
"His ability to do the research and get the facts on every story was very unique," said Sabres Hall member Danny Gare, who emceed the ceremonies.
Kelley's wife, Susan, father Jim Sr., daughters Erin and Megan and grandchildren were on hand for the ceremony. Steve Jones, sports editor of The News, spoke on behalf of the family.
Jones recounted a conversation Kelley had with former News writer Tim Graham upon his selection to the Hockey Hall, pointing out how great it was that a kid from South Buffalo could write about the hometown team and earn the trust of its legion of fans.
"As much as it's an individual honor," Kelley told Graham, "I wouldn't be here [in the hall] without the people of Buffalo and Western New York."
Jones, who first met Kelley when he arrived at The News in 1977 and became sports editor in 2007, then added his own request to the fans.
"I know Jim would stand here looking at the ceiling, looking at the [retired] numbers," Jones said. "He deserves a standing ovation from his favorite 19,000 fans."
With that, the crowd rose again with another long salute to Kelley.
The fans were then treated to a video presentation on Mogilny's career, which was highlighted by his 76-goal season in 1992-93, which remains the Sabres record. Mogilny went on to play for Vancouver, Toronto and New Jersey, winning a Stanley cup with the Devils in 2000.
Mogilny, now 41, finished his career with the Devils in 2006. He had 473 goals and 1,032 points in 990 games. In brief remarks, Mogilny thanked the Knox family as well as former Sabres scouting guru Don Luce and ex-GM Gerry Meehan, the duo responsible for getting him to the United States from Sweden in 1989.
Meehan recounted Mogilny's famous question to him -- "Am I free?" -- as one of the key moments in franchise history.
Mogilny scored a goal 20 seconds into his first game against Quebec in 1989 and had four 30-goal seasons with Buffalo. The capper was his 76-goal, 127-point output in '92-93, when he paired with Pat LaFontaine to become the highest-scoring duo in one season to wear the blue and gold.
The Sabres went with an unusual lineup of seven defensemen as Craig Rivet and Shaone Morrisonn both dressed with forward Nathan Gerbe being scratched. Ruff said he wanted to make sure Tyler Myers was sufficiently recovered from the flu that cost him the last two games.
Myers played 20 minutes, 20 seconds while Rivet played only 6:47. Morrisonn played 16:41 and was a season-high plus-3.
Chris Butler and Patrick Kaleta were also scratched. Kaleta blocked a shot with his hand Tuesday in Edmonton and was wearing a cast after skating Saturday.
Jason Pominville's four-point game was the first of the season by a Sabre. He has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in his last 14 games. It was Ryan Miller's 50th career shootout and he has 31 wins, tied for second all-time with Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. Martin Brodeur of New Jersey leads with 34. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in Bruins history they got goals from four different defensemen in the same game as Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara and Steven Kampfer all tallied. Boston rookie Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 pick in the June draft, had his first multi-point game with his third-period goal and assist. Seguin has six goals and seven assists in 34 games.