Longtime Buffalo Sabres executive Michael Gilbert has resigned as senior vice president of administration and general manager of HarborCenter, the team announced Wednesday.
“Terry and I would like to personally thank Mike for his 21 years of commitment to the Buffalo Sabres, and for his dedication to the growth of amateur hockey in Western New York. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” Sabres co-owner and president Kim Pegula said in a statement.
The resignation of Gilbert, a Tonawanda native who joined the Sabres in 1997, comes on the heels of the departure of Nik Fattey, who served as general manager of the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women's Hockey League as well as vice president and director of hockey at HarborCenter. A source confirmed Wednesday that Fattey resigned on Tuesday but insisted the two departures are unrelated.
Gilbert, who joined the Sabres after two years with the New Jersey Devils, served in a variety of roles with the club. He was the team's longtime director of public relations and its most prominent media contact before transitioning to a vice president role in 2011 and his new jobs with HarborCenter in 2016.
In a statement also issued through the Sabres, Gilbert said he was looking at other job prospects.
“I would like to thank Terry and Kim Pegula for all they have done for my family and me over the past eight years," Gilbert said. "I would also like to thank all of the Sabres and HarborCenter employees, as well as all of the players, coaches and hockey staff that I have worked with during my 21 years at the Buffalo Sabres. I believe now is the best time for me to explore some other opportunities in the private sector here in my hometown of Buffalo.”
Gilbert did not respond to text messages from The Buffalo News. His community endeavors included a spot on the Buffalo Place board of trustees.
"I am shocked. Mike is a great guy, and was great to sit with and work with on the Buffalo Place board," said local architect and fellow board member Steve Carmina. "I hope whatever he’s doing and wherever he’s going, he lands on his feet."
Said developer and board member Carl Paladino: "He was a good guy. Mike Gilbert’s one of the big stand-up guys for Buffalo."
Gilbert was assistant director of public relations for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1991-1995 and had spent three years with the Buffalo Bills (1988-1990) as a graduate assistant while a student at Canisius College. Gilbert became Terry Pegula's right-hand man for PR during the quest to buy the Bills and escorted the Pegulas to the NFL owners meetings in New York when their $1.4 billion purchase of the team was finalized in October 2014.
Gilbert also operated the public and community relations departments of the Sabres and Bandits, supervising the youth hockey and fan development initiatives of the organizations. He also helped the lead the organization's effort to bring the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship to Buffalo last year.
But the efforts of Gilbert and the local organizing team for that event were sharply criticized. High ticket prices, unsold ticket packages and brutally cold weather combined to produce thousands of empty seats in KeyBank Center for many games, a major departure from the sold-out crowds when the World Juniors were here in 2011.
Gilbert was currently a key cog in the organizing group for the NCAA Frozen Four, which is slated to return to Buffalo for the first time since 2003 when it's held in KeyBank Center on April 11 and 13.
Gilbert is a graduate of St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute. His nephew, Dennis, was also a St. Joe's grad and was a third-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015 out of Notre Dame. Dennis Gilbert is currently playing for the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL.
(News Business Reporter Jonathan D. Epstein contributed to this report).