The Buffalo Junior Sabres today announced that former Buffalo Sabres captain Michael Peca is joining the organization as its new General Manager. In addition, the team today announced that former Sabres player Ric Seiling is also joining the team as its Play-By-Play Announcer.
Larry Playfair, President of the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association and Buffalo Junior Sabres, explained that by hiring Peca the team utilizes his energy and experience while allowing Grant Ledyard to focus more specifically on his role as Head Coach.
“Grant Ledyard has shouldered the lion’s share of work for the Junior Sabres for the past two seasons,” said Playfair. “The Ontario Junior Hockey League has contracted down to 27 teams from 36 in those past two seasons. The competition has become better. It will be important that we allow Grant to spend more time coaching, and in order to do this we had to take some stuff off of his plate.
“Michael Peca had expressed an interest in both helping the Junior Sabres and in managing a team so this was a good fit for us. The fact that he is a former Sabre is a bonus.”
Peca said he looks forward to getting to know the Junior Sabres’ players, scouting the local hockey talent pool and building a junior hockey program that can compete with the nation’s best.
“I believe that the sky is the limit. We are in a very competitive league that produces outstanding results for college hockey,” said Peca. “Having said that, I believe we can become an organization that can become a model franchise for and team in any league to want to emulate. “
Peca also spoke of the team’s mission to keep the region’s top prospects ages 16 to 20 in Western New York while they further their development.
“I want all our best players from Western New York and the surrounding area to look at our program as their undisputed first choice,” said Peca. “I cringe watching a lot of our best kids moving away at 15 to17 to go somewhere else. I want to change that.”
The goal to become the region’s first choice for elite players appears closer than in previous seasons. Head Coach Grant Ledyard noted the team welcomed a record turnout at this spring’s tryouts at the Northtown Center in Amherst.
“Our tryouts this year saw 238 kids come through the door,” said Ledyard. “We have felt all along since becoming involved that if the Junior Sabres are a community based organization, the more kids to come and be part of the process, the better. Our roster over the summer has been an ever-changing thing. We unfortunately compete with the USHL and other junior programs to keep kids here, but I am confident we will keep more of the top rated kids here this year than ever before.”
In addition to changes in the front office, the Junior Sabres are adding a former NHL player to its staff as a play-by-play announcer. Ric Seiling, whose broadcast experience includes work with the Rochester Americans, ECAC college hockey championships and former Empire Sports Network, will be calling the action during Junior Sabres broadcasts (to be announced at a later date). This is actually Seiling’s second stint with the junior franchise, where he previously served as a coach during its Niagara Scenics era.
“They’re a good program to be involved with, so when the opportunity was presented to me, I was very glad to accept it,” said Seiling.
The Junior Sabres compete in the junior-A level Ontario Junior Hockey League as the only U.S.-based franchise. Commissioner Marty Savoy commented on the Junior Sabres’ new front office additions, praising the franchise for bringing in experienced talents in their ongoing effort to build a competitive team both on the ice and off.
“The Buffalo Junior Sabres are in a very unique position having the Sabres Alumni Association involved with the team,” said Savoy. “The addition of Michael Peca to the management team and Ric Seiling as the team’s broadcaster would be a tremendous addition for any team in the OJHL. With Michael and Ric joining ex-Sabres Grant Ledyard and Larry Playfair, the Sabres Alumni are getting directly involved with the support of the Junior Sabres and their goal to advance the education and hockey careers of their players.”
As a junior-A level program, the Junior Sabres develop elite level players for consideration with higher-level hockey programs, most notably college hockey. Founded in 1975, the Junior Sabres organization, which has also operated as the Niagara Scenics and Buffalo Lightning in its history, has advanced hundreds of players to college programs and also served as a stepping stone for a handful of NHL talents including Aaron Miller, Kevyn Adams, Brian Gionta, Bob Beers, Jeff Farkas, Todd Marchant and Ryan Callahan.
The Buffalo Junior Sabres open the 2011-2012 OJHL season against the Newmarket Hurricanes on Saturday, September 10 at 7:30pm in the Northtown Center at Amherst.