By Joe Olenick<br><a href="mailto:email@example.com">E-mail Joe</a>
OLCOTT — They’re used to chasing pucks, but on a beautiful Thursday in Olcott, former and current Buffalo Sabres were chasing fish on Lake Ontario.
The Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association held its second annual fishing derby, with 29 boats participating. Each boat had a captain, a crew and either a current Sabre, an alum or someone involved with the team. Boats left the Newfane Marina early Thursday morning and returned in the afternoon. Alumni president Larry Playfair said the association was looking for somewhere to host the event. Former Sabre Rob Ray stepped in with a suggestion to bring it to Olcott.
“We were looking around for a place to have a fishing tourney,” Playfair said. “Ray is the outdoors guy.”
The money raised at the event is going to the alumni’s scholarship fund, with some back to Olcott.
“And the money, about $5,000, is going back into the community,” Playfair said, adding the turnout was great for the derby. Organizers said most of the money was going into children fishing events.
Each boat also had a bucket of snacks and drinks to hold the fishermen over until lunch was served after the fishing had concluded. Some boaters even brought their own beverages and coolers.
Local businesses were able to “buy” a boat for the event for $1,200. Captains donated their time to help for the event, said one of the organizers, Bob Cinelli.
The day began for participants by arriving at 7 a.m. for some doughnuts, a hat and a pullover to help keep them warm while out on the lake. The hat and the pullover had the old Sabres logo on it with one exception. Under the charging buffalo, the two swords crossing were replaced by fishing rods.
The alumni and current Sabres signed autographs and took pictures with fans afterwards. Adults and children were everywhere, most wearing some kind of Sabres apparel.
As far as fishing went, the biggest catch of the day was a 20 pound, 6 six ounce fish caught by the Tracker boat team. Captained by Dave Siegfried of Holley, the team also featured Sabres broadcaster Harry Neale. Siegfried said while he didn’t participate last year, he was glad he did this year.
“It was a good time,” Siegfried said. “The alumni were very personable, and we are very appreciative.”
Some other participants agreed, saying they enjoyed the event and the weather. The lake was a little choppy though, said Jim Gordon of Jim’s Charter Service. He fished with Sabre alum Ric Seiling.
“The fishing was good, we caught about 11 fish,” he said.
Gordon participated in the derby last year. His team caught a 17 pound fish on his boat, named “Ol’ Jammer.”
“Hey it’s for charity, so it’s a good time,” he said. “But we’re hoping for second place.”
Bob Stevens of the Sunrise 2 team got to fish with Rob Ray, the former Sabres enforcer who now works with the team as a broadcaster. Ray and Stevens fished the year before, and Stevens said Ray asked to be with him again for this year’s event.
“We caught about eight fish, but nothing huge,” Stevens said. “I think seven pounds was the biggest we had. We went out in 60 feet to 120 feet of water, and went from 1 mile west of the marina to 1 mile east of it. The lake was beautiful, the fishing was great.”
Some of the Sabres present included Randy Cunneyworth, Matt Barnaby, current Sabres Adam Mair, Andrew Peters and Patrick Kaleta. Broadcasters Rick Jeanneret, Kevin Sylvester and Mike Robitaille were also present.
Contact reporter Joe Olenick
at 439-9222, ext. 6241.