Ryan O’Reilly knows first impressions are important. He’s sorry about the one he made on the Sabres and their fans.
Less than a week after signing the richest contract in team history, the Buffalo center allegedly crashed his pickup truck into a Tim Hortons and fled the scene. Ontario Provincial Police later charged O’Reilly with impaired driving and other infractions. He is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
“After this week it’ll be sorted out and I can comment more on it, but it’s an unfortunate situation,” O’Reilly said Tuesday in First Niagara Center. “I think with the way the Sabres have invested in me and seen light in me, to be involved in a situation like that it’s definitely unfortunate. I would never want to do that, so I definitely apologize to all the fans and just the kids that see the situation.
“I’m not going to say exactly what has happened. That’s going to come out in court. I’ll just be happy when it’s taken care of and I can just move on and start playing hockey.”
Hockey is why the Sabres gave the center a seven-year, $52.5 million contract July 3. The incident allegedly occurred July 9 near London, Ont.
“It’s obviously something I’ve had to deal with all summer, and I feel horrible about it,” O’Reilly said. “It can be a little difficult at times, but everyone here has been nice about it and supported me and is hoping for the best. To have that, it makes it much easier. I just focus on being here and let that thing take care of itself.
“I’m not saying the outcome is set yet, but just to be in a situation like that and have it come out the way it’s been spun, it is unfortunate. I know families and parents and kids, it’s not a good message to send to them. Again, I do apologize and I will do what I can to make that up to them. I think that’s something I’ll be happy to put behind me.”
Like the rest of the players who’ve begun arriving in Buffalo for informal workouts, O’Reilly is excited about what lies ahead. The rebuilt Sabres exude positive vibes after consecutive last-place finishes.
“Being a part of it now and skating and talking with the guys, there’s an excitement,” said O’Reilly. “You have a sense that we want to make that change and become a legitimate team. More than anything, it’s just fresh. Everyone’s just excited, and it’s something we’ll continue to build on.”