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Wednesday, 11.10.2010 / 1:51 PM / News
By Rob Crean  - Public Relations Director
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If there is one thing that Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff has learned during his first 999 games as an NHL bench boss, it is to expect the unexpected.

Tonight, Ruff will coach his 1,000th career NHL regular season game, which will tie him with his mentor, the late Roger Neilson, for 17th place on the NHL’s all-time list.  And if it wasn’t for Neilson, Ruff never would have been in the position he finds himself in tonight, on the cusp of reaching a major milestone.

It was Neilson who first suggested that Ruff should get into coaching when Ruff played for Neilson and was winding down his NHL playing career with the Rangers in 1990.  He went on to play a few more seasons in the minor leagues before unexpectedly being hired as one of Neilson’s assistants with the expansion Florida Panthers in 1993-94.

“A rumor going was around at the Draft and somebody called and said ‘your name is up for a coaching job in Florida’ and I knew nothing of it,” Ruff said when describing how he first joined the NHL coaching ranks.

Not only does Ruff credit Neilson for getting him into the coaching profession, but also for helping him become the coach he is today.

“I think the reason I’m here is I was with the right guy (in Neilson),” Ruff said.  “His work habits around the game were second to none. Being with him for those couple years gave me just a great background to move forward and just think that I’ve got to put a lot more work into this game than I thought I’d ever put into it.”

While Ruff got his start in Florida, he made his name as a head coach in Buffalo.

Ruff was hired as the 15th head coach of the Sabres on July 21, 1997 by General Manager Darcy Regier, who, fittingly, will be working his 1,000th game as Sabres GM tonight.

In ‘97 I thought I was going to be gone in December. I was young and I just kept hearing that if we don’t win in the playoffs, I’ll be gone. I still remember standing on the bench in Philly after we won (a first round playoff series) thinking ‘I got a chance now.’ That part never leaves you. - Head Coach Lindy Ruff
“I don’t think it’s any secret that I don’t stand here if it isn’t for Darcy,” Ruff said.  “I’ve been lucky is what I’ve been.  To go through ownership changes and to have the support from Darcy I’ve had is probably the main reason I’m still here.  And the new ownership group – Tom (Golisano), Larry (Quinn) and Dan (DiPofi) and the support they’ve given us has been exceptional.”

Together, Ruff and Regier have guided the Sabres to an appearance in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, four Eastern Conference Finals berths, two Northeast Division titles and a Presidents Trophy in 2006-07.  Ruff also added the Jack Adams Award to his résumé following the 2005-06 campaign as well as an Olympic gold medal earlier this year.

Ruff and Regier are currently the longest-tenured GM/coach combination in pro sports.  In fact, there have been 155 head coaching changes in the NHL alone since Regier hired Ruff in 1997. 

Thirteen years later, Ruff is still surprised he made it out of Year One.

“In ‘97 I thought I was going to be gone in December.  I was young and I just kept hearing that if we don’t win in the playoffs, I’ll be gone. I still remember standing on the bench in Philly after we won (a first round playoff series) thinking ‘I got a chance now.’  That part never leaves you.”

If Ruff did not expect to make it through his first season behind the Buffalo bench, he certainly would not have foreseen going 487-370-142 entering his 1,000th game.  He currently ranks third in most games coached with one franchise and fourth in most wins with one franchise, and is within striking distance of moving up a notch on each of those lists this season.  Ruff points to his willingness to adapt as one of the reasons for his longevity.

“You try from year to year to be unpredictable, to bring something new to the players. Maybe that’s the one reason I’ve been able to hang in as long as I can.”

After all the years and all the accomplishments in Buffalo, Ruff remains determined to bring Buffalo to the top of the hockey mountain. Despite the slow start by the Sabres this season, Ruff is not wavering from his belief in this team.

“I’m a big believer. You’re not going to take the belief away.  You keep digging and scratching.” 




1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52


C. Hodgson 72 20 24 -26 44
T. Ennis 80 21 22 -25 43
D. Stafford 70 16 18 -19 34
C. Ehrhoff 79 6 27 -27 33
C. Stewart 63 15 11 0 26
C. Conacher 79 7 19 1 26
T. Myers 62 9 13 -26 22
Z. Girgensons 70 8 14 -6 22
M. Foligno 74 7 12 -17 19
J. McBain 69 6 11 -13 17
M. Neuvirth 4 8 2 .921 2.78
J. Enroth 4 17 5 .911 2.82