When Sabres star Jack Eichel went house hunting, he ended up buying a $985,000 waterfront townhome from a familiar face – former Bills GM Doug Whaley.
Talk about One Buffalo.
That Pegula Sports and Entertainment mantra could just as easily apply to real-estate deals as it does to how the Bills and Sabres perform on the turf and on the ice.
The Whaley-Eichel transaction is one of a number of home sales over the past two decades that took place among players, coaches and executives for the Bills and Sabres.
Real-estate agents say it's no surprise properties stay within the teams – generally East Amherst, Clarence and the downtown waterfront for the Sabres, and Hamburg and Orchard Park for the Bills.
The players, coaches and executives want to live somewhere convenient for games and practices; there's a lot of turnover in their jobs, so the properties regularly change hands; they share real-estate tips among each other; and they are among the small cohort in the area who can afford $500,000-plus houses, observers said.
"I always call them locker-room trades," said Maureen Flavin, an agent with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services who has helped a good number of Sabres players buy and sell homes here.
Players will sit around at the rink and talk houses, Flavin said: " 'Hey, what about this place?' "
Eichel has an eight-year, $80 million contract that kicks in this season, and the 21-year-old former No. 2 overall draft pick is putting some of that money to use on a new bachelor pad. The property on Ojibwa Circle was built in 2016 and purchased by Doug Whaley and his wife, Stephanie, that June for $752,000, according to public records.
The three-story townhouse has four bedrooms and four bathrooms and is 3,451 square feet, according to real-estate listings.
Whaley served in a variety of roles with the Bills, starting in 2010, before he was relieved of his duties as general manager in spring 2017.
Ellicott Development Co., which built the townhouse complex near Erie Basin Marina, listed the property on the Whaleys' behalf, said Lynn Gannon, Ellicott's director of residential leasing.
Eichel, who is beginning his fourth season with the Sabres, isn't alone among the team's players or executives in buying a waterfront townhouse. And those purchases often stay within the Sabres family.
For example, former Sabres tough guy Andrew Peters in 2011 sold his Lakefront Boulevard townhouse for $315,000 to one-time teammate Nathan Gerbe.
And former Sabres center Derek Roy in August 2012 sold a townhouse on Rivermist Drive to a limited liability company with ties to Terry Pegula, then the owner of the Sabres and now the owner of the Bills as well. Tim Murray lived in the townhouse for part of the time he served as the Sabres' general manager, Flavin said.
The waterfront is appealing for a number of reasons, Flavin said, and the players all visit each other's homes.
"It's so much fun there. It's safe. And it's new construction," Flavin said, and the players can have privacy. The wives and girlfriends also can hang out together there, she said.
The transactions aren't limited to the waterfront.
Flavin represented Tyler Myers when he paid $1.42 million for a mansion on Middlesex Road, near Delaware Park, in September 2013, and she listed the home again when the former Sabres defenseman sold it to Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly for $1.34 million in September 2015.
The 5,600-square-foot house, built in 2010, has four bedrooms and 4½ bathrooms, along with an all-season pool and spa and a steam room. O'Reilly was traded in July to the St. Louis Blues, and the home again is for sale.
And it's not just the Sabres, either. Members of the Bills organization sell properties among each other. Just take Eric Moulds, the former Bills wide receiver.
In 1996, the year he came to town as a first-round draft pick, Moulds paid $154,000 for a house on North Hill Drive in West Seneca from Andre Reed, the all-time great Bills wide receiver.
Separately, Moulds sold another house he owned, on Briercliff Drive in Hamburg, in 2008 for $519,900 to Leodis McKelvin, then a cornerback and kick returner for the team.
McKelvin was released by the Bills in March 2016, but Erie County real property records show he still owns the home.
Amy Pfister, broker-owner of Pfister Real Estate Group, has sold homes for ex-Bills Jim Kelly and Marshawn Lynch and ex-coach Rex Ryan.
She said their homes are appealing to other players, coaches and team executives because they have the amenities sought by their peers – home theaters, giant TVs with surround sound, full basement bars and in-ground pools and hot tubs.
"When I'm dealing with a 23-year-old, they don't want grandma's house," Pfister said.