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Kim Pegula now woman of influence

Kim Pegula's parents were Canadian and when she was growing up in Fairport, there were no trips to the Aud for hockey games. They simply headed to the Rochester War Memorial to see the Amerks.

So imagine what must have been going through her mind on March 5 in HSBC Arena.

Her husband, new Sabres owner Terry Pegula, was supposed to meet with Amerks owner Curt Styres during a Bandits-Rochester Knighthawks game. Having just spent $189 million on his favorite team, Terry Pegula wanted to see if there was any chance to buy its old farm team back.

But Terry was ill at home and told his wife to go in his place. Kim Pegula met with Styres, broaching the subject of her husband buying the team she loved as a child. Which brings us to Wednesday's lovefest in the picturesque atrium of what's now known as Blue Cross Arena.

"The University of Sabres," as Pegula dubbed it in yet another memorable catchphrase, is complete. The Amerks and Sabres are reunited. As they should be.

"I just did what Terry asked," Kim Pegula said Wednesday. "I told Curt about my past relationship with Rochester, and he said he felt it was something we could work out together so I was very excited. I came back and told Terry he seemed very positive about the possibility.

"The team wasn't for sale and Kurt wasn't trying to peddle it off. We didn't know what the response was going to be. They were very gracious."

The vignette easily shows that Kim Pegula has seized the mantle of First Lady of Buffalo Sports.

Mary Owen, Ralph Wilson's 32-year-old niece, is a rising power broker with the Bills as executive vice president of strategic planning and sits on the NFL's Super Bowl Committee, but has no real public cachet. Mindy Rich, who has co-owned the Bisons for many years, has joined her husband in concentrating more on the family business.

Kim Pegula, meanwhile, is not merely standing by her man. She was in the front row of the official team picture at the end of the season, right there with her husband, president Ted Black, General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff.

She's been included in all photo opportunities for the big announcements, even though she usually needs some prodding. She went to Vancouver as part of a fact-finding trip for the team's locker room renovations. Think Jordan Leopold mentioned the new digs once or twice when he talked to Robyn Regehr last week? You bet.

She's been providing major input on all aspects of the look inside HSBC since her husband took over too. Think you'll notice come October?

Last week, she joined her husband and Ruff in traveling to Saskatchewan to greet Regehr and allay any apprehension of his pregnant wife, Christie. She says she'll do whatever her husband asks in a similar vein in the coming days as the Sabres enter one of the most anticipated free agent periods in the clubs history.

Front office executive?

"I'm still a mom," she said with a laugh when the topic was broached. "I've worked for Terry for 20 years, besides being married for 18, so we've always done it this way. There hasn't been a time we haven't. It works for us so we're going to continue."

"To have an owner's wife involved, involved with the players and involved with our staff, that word spreads," Regier said at last weekend's draft.

Kim Pegula said her message to Regehr's wife and anyone else who asks is that Buffalo is very underrated, especially for families.

"Having Robyn and his wife join us is a really good fit for Buffalo off the ice," she said. "I am not an expert on the ice. I leave that to Darcy and Lindy. They felt he's what we need.

"We wanted to personally see [the Regehrs], say hello. I know from being a mom and with her having a young child, being pregnant and being in Calgary for more than 10 years, those are big changes all at once. I just wanted to give her ideas of what's going on and reassure her about what kind of community Buffalo will be."

So what about this weekend?

"Making sure the kids stay out of the way for Terry is probably my biggest role," she joked. "But if Terry says, 'Hey, I need you to talk to so-and-so's wife, I need travel arrangements to do this or go there or there,' well, I'll be there to do it."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com