'The group, the Buffalo Sabres Center Ice Club, are expected to be formally introduced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. The group is being led by Jordan Levy, managing partner of Seed Capital Partners, along with Bill Collins, principal from Travers Collins & Co. and Paul Vukelic, CEO and president of Try-It Distributing Co. Patterned after the "Buffalo Backs the Bills" campaign, the 38-member group will be reaching deep into the community to help the Sabres sell season tickets or season ticket packages.'
'“…but for us, it was an opportunity to bring him into our organization to give him an opportunity hopefully first to perform in training camp and make our hockey club but, in the event that there is some sort of a work stoppage, to give him an opportunity and work with him at the American League level. I think anytime you can bring someone in the organization and have your staff work with him, it is a tremendous advantage.”'
'''(Rochester) is our lifeblood,'' Regier said. ''It's the way we have to function, and it's the way we have to build this organization and innovate and create. We're fortunate that it's an hour down the road, so we see players on a regular basis and we can see them grow. From that standpoint, it's fulfilling.'''
'While Gaustad may be part of the NHL Players Association, he hasn’t played in enough games to be part of the NHLPA that likely will be locked out when the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement ends Sept. 15. Players who have “two-way” contracts with limited NHL time from the year before can still play in the minor leagues, says his agent, Carlos Sosa.'
'But weary fans in Buffalo didn't share Slovakia's enthusiasm for Satan last season. He was named captain out of training camp and finished with 29 goals and 28 assists, but for the first time in seven years he didn't lead the team in scoring.'
'"The new owner came in and really solidified things," Drury said. "He did a tremendous job and (the franchise) has gained more respect in the community. People were pretty frustrated with how things went the year before."'
'As the first round of hockey's World Cup winds down, let's take a look at the five Sabres taking part.'
'"I'm looking forward to the next step," Vanek said. "If that's in Rochester, that's OK because I still have to develop. If I work hard I think I can make (the Sabres' roster). But if I don't make the team I won't pout. I'll just score goals in Rochester and work my way up."'
'Lucia added that coming back for another year would have been a gamble for Vanek, considering current NHL labor strife. "The same money might not have been there for him next year," Lucia said.'
'The Sabres finally hiked their offer to the rookie maximum, about the same deal that Gophers senior defenseman Keith Ballard obtained from the Phoenix Coyotes early in the summer.'
'Vanek was the fifth overall selection by Buffalo in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Vanek, who is 20 years old, lead the Golden Gophers in scoring in each of his first two Division I seasons.'
'Vanek moved to Lacombe, Alberta, Canada, from Graz, Austria, at age 14 to pursue his hockey talent. After playing Midget AA in Alberta, he played in the USHL for three seasons in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before being accepted to the University of Minnesota. This past season, he competed internationally for Austria at the 2004 World Junior championship (3+1=4, 6 GP) and at the 2004 World championship. Vanek led the Austrian team with two goals, five assists, and seven points in six games in the World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.'
'Vanek, 20, led the Golden Gophers in scoring in each of his two Division I seasons. In 2002-03, he recorded 31 goals, 31 assists for 62 points and was named team MVP. That season culminated in the Minnesota's national championship. Vanek was named MVP of the Frozen Four following the tournament, finishing with five goals and three assists in four games, including two game- winners.'
'"Thomas is a special talent and he is ready to move forward with his career and compete at the NHL level," Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier said. "He is a natural goal scorer and has been one of the best college players the last two seasons at Minnesota. We believe Thomas will be an exciting player for our fans and organization to watch in the upcoming seasons."'
'“This was definitely the deal I was looking for. I was happy and excited,'' Vanek said. “I'm going to miss it here (at Minnesota). But at the same time, I'm really happy to be able to move on with my career.'''