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Pominville and His Triumphant Buffalo Return


Former Sabres captain steals the show and scores game winner

As if suffering Buffalo Sabres fans needed yet another reminder of just how awful things have become around these parts.

This past Monday the Minnesota Wild came to town, a team which normally doesn’t garner all that much attention when they play here. But this time things were different. Jason Pominville, who played his entire career in Buffalo and was the team captain before his trade last March, made his return to Buffalo. And he scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win for Minnesota over his old teammates. “It was a storybook for Jason tonight,” said Wild head coach Mike Yeo, whose team kept the Sabres winless for the 2013-14 season.

Pominville’s presence here became an immediate media sensation, so much so that following the morning skate this past Monday morning at the First Niagara Center, Wild PR officials took the extraordinary step of setting up Pominville’s interview in the media conference room, when normally such exchanges take place surrounding said player at his locker room cubicle. The room was packed. Everybody wanted to hear what Pominville had to say.

Pominville admitted that he had this date, and his return to Buffalo, circled on the calendar from the minute the schedule came out. “It’s one of the games that jumps out and one you’re looking forward to. I don’t hold anything against the organization or anything like that. I’m just looking forward to getting out and getting this game played.”

As for being used to the chaos and shock that comes with being traded and having to move quickly, Pominville had a similar experience just a few months ago while playing in Germany during the NHL lockout. Pominville had signed with the Adler Mannheim team of the DEL, and he and his entire family moved to Mannheim and adjusted to life there. The lockout ended very suddenly on a Sunday night, while he and his team were playing in Munich against the EHC Red Bull Muenchen team. He flew straight back to North America and his family followed a day later. “I never even got the chance to say goodbye, and the franchise there and the fans were so good to me,” Pominville stated at the time.

With the trade from Buffalo to Minnesota, Pominville was really never given a proper sendoff. “When it happened everything happened so quick. We had a day off and the next day I was flying to meet the team out in LA. So I didn’t have a chance to see anyone.” Pominville actually learned of his trade to Minnesota via national media outlets. “Darcy called me later and formally informed me that the trade had taken place.”

Pominville clearly laid out the difference between Buffalo’s fortunes and those of his new team. “I’m with a team that wants to win and wants to win now, while Buffalo is more in a rebuilding process. So I am happy the way things turned out and this might have been the best thing for my career. Why would you not want to be with this team that is heading in this direction?”

As he stepped out on to the ice for his morning warm up, observers noticed that Pominville was taking his time and staring at the rafters of the building as his teammates flew by him. “Just walking in there are so many good memories. The back to back conference finals is something I will never forget. 15,000 people outside. It is all something I will always remember for sure.”

Following last Monday’s game, Pominville was the happiest guy in the Wild locker room. “This is a night I will cherish and remember for a long, long time,” said Pominville, as his fellow players called out cheers over the heads of yet another crowded media scrum. “Yeah I know what those guys are going through I’ve been there,” he said in reference to his former team. “They’ll figure it out in due course there’s a lot of talent and guys who care in that locker room.”

Although it may be just a wee bit early to speculate, the buzz everywhere at First Niagara Center on Monday night was this: Thomas Vanek is a goner as a Buffalo Sabre, and will be joining his friend and former teammate Jason Pominville on the Minnesota Wild come next season.

The Wild? Building a contender now. The Sabres? Suffering.

Taro Sez…

• Jeers to the Sabres front office and game ops crew for not giving their former Sabres captain any love on the HD board. The script was simple: first TV timeout you run the highlight reel of the overtime series clinching goal against Ottawa in 2006 (“Now do you believe! These guys are good! Scary good!”), then show Pommers on the bench and let the fans do the rest. A goose bump moment stolen from the fans. But hey! The kiss cam and dancing recycling bins sequences were epic.

• Ted Nolan was given the same organizational bile on his return to Buffalo as Islanders coach a few years back. Expect the same shameful lack of class when Lindy Ruff shows up here in less than two weeks with his Dallas Stars.

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