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REGIER'S EMOTIONS SPILL OUT AS PECA DISPUTE ENDS

Darcy Regier kept his emotions in check during the Buffalo Sabres' intense standoff with Michael Peca.

While Peca remained unsigned for a complete season, debate raged in the dressing room, on the radio, in the newspaper and on the street over which side was right.

Regier, though, remained stoic throughout.

Buffalo's general manager rarely offered outsiders a hint as to how or when he planned to end the contract dispute that began with a disagreement over compensation and then exploded into a bitter stalemate.

Peca, a restricted free agent, refused to sign with Buffalo, and Regier refused to trade the Sabres' captain until receiving what he felt was the full value.

But Sunday, after the Sabres finally executed a Peca trade with the New York Islanders to punctuate NHL draft weekend at the National Car Rental Center, Regier's emotions emerged.

Regier choked back tears on multiple occasions in speaking about Peca and the arduous process both sides endured before the trade.

Regier's voice cracked and his eyes welled while reflecting on the 430-day affair. His speech wavered as he expressed his appreciation to the rest of the Sabres' front office, and again when he discussed the human element of a business decision.

"It is emotion," Regier said. "You're playing with people's lives. I have the utmost respect for Michael Peca. That obviously doesn't mean you (always) agree, but you don't ever want to be a part of hurting anybody.

"I'm dealing on behalf of the organization, but it's about his life, and you don't ever want to have things become personal. Those are the unfortunate side-effects. Those things evoke some emotion."

When informed of Regier's heartfelt sentiment, Peca was reserved.

"If that's the way he feels, it's nice to hear those words," Peca said. "But that's behind me now. I'm just looking forward."

Peca wasn't so calm 24 hours before.

When a trade wasn't made Saturday, Peca and agent Don Meehan were livid. They called the Sabres callous and petty. They claimed the Sabres could have made a deal long ago, but did it merely to punish Peca.

"This whole concept of teaching someone a lesson or being vindictive, it isn't there," Regier said. "People will figure that out over some period of time."

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff didn't see Regier get choked up in front of the media. But they spent hours together deep into the night over the weekend while Regier tried to put the Peca deal to bed.

"This was an emotional day for Darcy," Ruff said. "The one thing it did show is that Darcy cares about every player we got. It was not an easy decision. The business part of it is not an easy process, and players' feelings get hurt. He has to make tough decisions, but we all want Buffalo to be a place where players want to come to play.

"This wasn't about getting even with anybody. It was about trying to improve our team at the expense of losing a player we've grown with and had a tough year with."

Regier was asked if he had any regrets over how the Sabres handled Peca's contract dispute. Before Regier answered he let out a tired sigh and massaged his forehead.

"Would you do some things differently? Yeah, you probably would," he replied. "I'd probably need some time to figure that out. But I don't know that it would have turned out any differently."

Regier claimed a benefit of the lengthy feud was the increased unity that emerged the front office.

"I'm most proud of how everybody stuck together because it wasn't easy," he said. "You do it as a group. I'm lucky. I have Lindy Ruff and (director of player personnel) Don Luce and (assistant GM) Larry Carriere -- good people who help.

"We've been through some hard times together. When you go through some adversity, you're never in the same place you started from. You're either going to be stronger, or you're going to be weaker. It's usually your choice."

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