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Led by owner, Buffalo's now a hockey town

Kids, if you don't believe me, ask your parents. Ask them about a time in which Buffalo was a football town with a hockey team, when the Bills were a way of life, an identity, a connection to the big time. Ask them about the Sabres being a distant second, an asset but little more than a bridge between football seasons.

It was that way for the better part of 40 years before it all changed in about 40 seconds back in February. That's when the Sabres introduced an owner who was intent on taking Buffalo for the ride of its life, thus exposing a Bills owner who simply has taken Buffalo for a ride.

See, that's what separates Terry Pegula from Ralph Wilson, and that's why the attitude toward the Sabres and Bills has taken such a dramatic turn. In the past seven months, Buffalo transformed into a hockey town with a football team for one reason among all others: ownership.

Pegula has shown a greater commitment to winning before his first full season with the Sabres than Wilson has in 51 seasons owning the Bills, plain and simple. Pegula brings faith and a sense of relief while Wilson brings, well, what has he contributed in recent years exactly other than headaches?

Hold your emails. People act as if criticizing Wilson equates to sacrilege, like he's somehow immune because he brought the Bills to Buffalo. It doesn't make him a good owner. Any notion that he performed some selfless community service goes out the window when adding up the money he pocketed while giving little back in return.

He should know by now that it doesn't take much to arouse Buffalo fans. They're not like people in New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Los Angeles. The only thing Buffalo fans demand from their teams is an honest effort.

You can point toward Wilson's chief money man, Jeffrey Littman, as a primary problem. Just remember that Wilson ultimately calls the shots. At any point, he could hand down orders to give fans what they deserve.

What they deserve is the only thing they demand. Most people can stomach losing teams if the effort is there. The Bills haven't given any indication that they're trying to get better, let alone win a Super Bowl.

This isn't meant to slam Wilson or pile on the Bills. It's to exploit the obvious contrast between them and the Sabres. Both teams should be making an honest attempt to win in exchange for your money, a concept that had been lost in Buffalo until Pegula rolled into town.

The Bills have been making between $30 million and $40 million for years. They have made the playoffs 17 times in their 51 seasons, which means they missed two out of every three years.

Folks, that's embarrassing.

If anything, the Bills have gone backward. They're making big money but traded away respected receiver Lee Evans in a cost-cutting move. They're jerking around classy veteran running back Fred Jackson. Their offensive line is in shambles, and their locker room sounds like it's on the verge of implosion.

For a team that could find a way to put a happy face on herpes, there's a sense of dread hanging over One Bills Drive. Earlier this week, they looked more like they were getting ready to start life in prison, not the regular season.

The Sabres were busy this summer signing players and getting their house in order. Pegula will likely lose a bundle this season, but he doesn't mind if it means getting closer to the Stanley Cup.

Look at the two teams and decide which is more deserving of your cash, your attention, your heart and soul.

Football season hasn't even started, but there's a sense it can't end soon enough. Hockey season hasn't started, but it can't get here soon enough.

It makes sense. After all, Buffalo is a hockey town. Just ask the kids.

email: bgleason@buffnews.com

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