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Mike Ramsey is much happier now, coming back to the Buffalo Sabres, than he was when he left four years ago.

Ramsey, who was named an assistant coach by the Sabres earlier this week, spent parts of 14 seasons as a Sabre. The defenseman was one of the most well-respected players in the history of the franchise. He thought he was going to be a Sabre for life until a March 1993 deal sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Bob Errey.

"I was very upset. I always envisioned myself as playing my whole career here, and when I left I wasn't a happy camper," Ramsey said.

Ramsey spent a little more than a year with the Penguins, and played two more full seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. As he looks back on leaving Buffalo, the bitterness is gone.

"That (the trade) made me a better person, made for a better experience in the NHL," he said. "They say you should get traded at least once to see what it's like in another organization. You kind of get tunnel vision. I think it made me appreciate the game more, appreciate the National Hockey League more. It probably was the best thing that happened to me."

Ramsey retired after the 1995-96 season, although he did stage a brief two-game comeback with Detroit last spring. He thought he would stay in his native Minnesota and run his sporting goods store. Coaching was not on his mind.

"I had a lot of people talk to me about it," Ramsey said. "Last year I had some teams call me about it. At the time I said I was just going to step back for a while."

That all changed this week when Lindy Ruff was named head coach of the Sabres. The two men have been best friends for years. The chance to work with Ruff as well as to come back to Buffalo proved too much for Ramsey to resist.

"If Lindy was in Calgary or somewhere and called to offer a job, I'd have to think about it," Ramsey said. "But he's in Buffalo, where I spent a majority of my hockey career. It was icing on the cake."

The Buffalo organization he left in 1993 has had a complete face-lift in the past four years. Former general managers Gerry Meehan and John Muckler have departed. "It's a different page, and you move on," Ramsey said about returning to the Sabres. "Anyone that had anything to do with the trade isn't here right now. "They have a young team, a new coach, a new GM, a new building. What a great way to come in and start on the ground floor. I'm very fortunate."
The Sabres are closing in on a deal that would move the radio broadcasts of their games from WGR of the AM dial to FM station WHTT. Sabres' president Larry Quinn did not deny that negotiations were taking place but added, "We are a ways away from an agreement."

When and if a switch is completed, the team apparently will follow through in its plans to simulcast the play-by-play account of games on radio and television. Pete Weber, the team's radio announcer for the past two seasons, was told on Thursday that his job would be eliminated because of the simulcasting move.
The Sabres announced their preseason schedule on Friday. They will play eight games with their entire roster, and have three games with the Toronto Maple Leafs that will feature only prospects from the two teams. Two games will be in Buffalo -- Toronto on Sept. 23 and Carolina (formerly Hartford) on Sept. 27. The schedule also includes a road trip for games in Greensboro, N.C. against Carolina and in Huntsville, Ala., against Pittsburgh.

Training camp will open on Sept. 10 in Hamilton for four days. It will then shift to Wheatfield at the Hockey Outlet (formerly Sabreland) until the regular season opens in early October.

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