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Sabres go back to 'school' during NHL lockout

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm •  Published: December 6, 2012

"Terry challenged us as an organization, by saying, 'We're not going to lay anyone off or have salary reductions, but use this time to find ways to improve how we do things,'" Black said, referring to Pegula. "And I think the opportunity for all of us to sit together and learn from each other will carry forward and make us a stronger organization."

At the very least, it can't hurt in having provided staff something engaging to look forward to during an uncertain time.

"I'm not going to lie about that. It's been challenging for each of us," Black said. "There are days you sit around saying, 'Geez, I wish we were playing hockey.' But you can't let that consume you. And, as an organization, you can't let that drag us down. There's too many good people here, too many smart people here."

The university-style project was so well received that the Sabres are planning to conduct similar sessions annually during the offseason. Black added another professional sports team and a college athletic department caught wind of the idea. Both have contacted the Sabres in an effort to duplicate it.

Kim Pegula considered the two-week project both enlightening and empowering for staff, because members of every department were able to provide insight into what they do in a group setting.

"I thought it was great that there was no hierarchy or management levels," Pegula said. "This exercise put everybody on the same floor as students."

That included Ruff, who acknowledged being nervous when making his presentation. It didn't matter to him that he stood in the same team meeting room, where he's conducted hundreds of similar sessions in front of his players.

"Yeah, I was a little nervous," he said. "It was my first official class."

As enjoyable as it was, it wasn't lost on Ruff on how much he missed coaching.

"That did cross my mind, to be honest with you," Ruff said. "It's almost like you're looking around at players, but you're not. And that's just kind of how it felt."