The Buffalo Blizzard unexpectedly announced on Monday it had released Rudy Pikuzinski, its all-time leading scorer.
A Buffalo native, the 40-year-old Pikuzinski spent eight of his 13 seasons in the National Professional Soccer League with Buffalo. He is the Blizzard's all-time career scorer with 823 points and the team's all-time career goal-scorer with 317 goals. He also is the Blizzard's career leader in two-point goals (269) and penalty minutes (190).
"Philosophically speaking, we had differences, and I have to do what is best for the team," Blizzard coach George Fernandez said in a prepared statement. "My goal from here on out is to take this team in another direction. This is just one step in that direction."
Attempts to reach Pikuzinski by phone Monday night were unsuccessful.
Pikuzinski, along with his brother Randy, were the only original members of the Blizzard still with the team since its inception in 1992. Rudy scored five goals in the first game in Blizzard history in 1992. Both brothers also played for the Buffalo Stallions of the defunct Major Indoor Soccer League in the 1983-84 season.
Randy remains with the team, although both were not in the starting lineup in Marine Midland Arena on Saturday when the Blizzard played the Montreal Impact. With a 4-8 record, the Blizzard is off to its worst start in franchise history.
"There had been a lot of tension in the locker room in the last week or so, and George felt some changes had to be make," Mike Ferguson, the Blizzard vice president and general manager said.
Pikuzinski has been one of the most dominant players in the NPSL throughout his career. He joined the league in 1985 with the Canton Invaders, where he won championships in 1985-86, 1987-88, 1988-89 and 1989-90. In 422 regular season NPSL games, he scored 511 goals and 340 assists for 1,224 points.
His teams made the playoffs in all 12 previous seasons. He played in 55 playoff games, scoring 49 goals and 43 assists worth 120 points. Pikuzinski was voted league MVP three times (1987-1989) and was selected to eight consecutive all-star teams (1988-1995).
Pikuzinski was Buffalo's leading scorer in 1992-93 (165 points), 1993-94 (113 points), and 1997-98 (139 points). Last season he was the second-leading scorer on the team with 104 points. (Doug Miller led with 194.)
Pikuzinski was suspended in December of 1995 for disciplinary reasons for three games by coach Jim May after Pikuzinski received a pair of five-minute misconduct penalties in a game for being disrespectful to game officials.