Patrick Kaleta lived out a dream. His next job is helping other Western New York kids do it, too.
The Sabres have hired Kaleta, the childhood fan who played in Buffalo’s organization for 10 years, as their youth hockey ambassador. He will implement and manage the Sabres’ “Learn to Play Program.”
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work in the community in which I was born and raised, and to help grow the game of hockey among the youth of Western New York,” Kaleta said Thursday. “As a kid, it was always a dream of mine to become a Buffalo Sabre, and now I’ll have the opportunity to help other young kids develop the same passion for hockey.”
USA Hockey, Hockey Canada, the NHL and its players’ association developed Learn to Play to inspire more families to join the hockey community. First-time participants ages 4-8 get free equipment and certified coaching led by NHL alumni.
Kaleta will also serve as a liaison to the local high school hockey community and provide support for other youth hockey initiatives.
A 30-year-old Angola native, Kaleta is no stranger to helping kids. He created his Helping Individuals to Smile (HITS) Foundation in 2009, and it provides support for underprivileged children and adults in Western New York. A nominee for “Man of the Year” during his time with Rochester, Kaleta has worked the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Operation Backbone and Cradle Beach.
The Sabres drafted Kaleta in the sixth round in 2004. He played 348 games with Buffalo, recording 27 goals, 54 points and 542 penalty minutes.