When Terry and Kim Pegula bought the Buffalo Bills, some in WNY wondered how it would affect the status of then Bills CEO and President Russ Brandon? Brandon had not only survived the hierarchy and ups and downs of the Ralph Wilson ownership, he prospered. Could Russ Brandon also earn the trust and respect of the new Pegula ownership? The obvious answer today is yes, hell yes!

Naming Russ Brandon as both President of the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills is a testament to the hard work and skill-set Brandon has demonstrated since arriving in Buffalo in 1997. Working his way up the ladder from head of marketing to running the entire Bills operation, Russ Brandon has overcome every obstacle in his path.

The comparison between Brandon and previous Sabres President Ted Black was telling. Black was Vice President of business and legal affairs with the Pittsburgh Penguins before becoming Senior VP and GM of Fox Sports Pittsburgh in 2008. Black held that position for only two years and was let go, but was hired by the Pegula Sabres ownership group.

Over the past four seasons Black’s leadership inside the First Niagara Center has come into question. There have been snafu’s like the timing of season ticket increases being announced on Fan Appreciation Day or the handling of he news conference to announce the departure of Pat LaFontaine. Then there was the “turd burger” comment about the team’s third jersey that went over like a bag of, well turds.

Many speculated that John Koelmel would replace Black as Sabres President at the completion of the HarborCenter, but Koelmel exited first. Despite the internal criticism from staffers I was told as recently as last week that Terry Pegula’s loyalty to Black was strong.

For the Pegula’s the contrast between the two men had to be obvious. Russ Brandon’s business sense and community relationships far exceeded what Black was able to muster as team President over his four years in Buffalo.

It will be interesting to see Brandon apply his skill set to a franchise that is on the upswing, but still has organizational issues to work out. However, one thing is certain, don’t underestimate Russ Brandon.

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