Lindy Ruff’s 10 years playing and 13 years coaching professional hockey in Buffalo have earned him a spot in the 20th class inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Ruff will join other notable Buffalo sports figures such as longtime Bills kicker Steve Christie and player turned Bandits coach Darris Kilgour. The 20th class will bring the total number of local sports figures enshrined in the Hall to 228. Ruff noted at a press conference today that when he was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres at 32nd overall in 1979, he couldn’t even find Buffalo on a map. However, once Ruff arrived, he settled right in and today offered his feelings about his adopted hometown: “I’m proud to call this my home, I’m proud to call this area a place where my family loves to live.” The 50-year-old Ruff reminded the audience that although he was extremely honored to have his name put on the wall, he still wanted to “put a little sliver jug next to it.”
As a player with the Buffalo Sabres, Ruff was known for his toughness and work ethic and served as the Sabres captain for 3 years. He was traded to the New York Rangers in 1989 to make room for eventual draft pick Richard Smehlik, who, in a strange twist, would later be coached by Ruff. Ruff recorded 105 goals, 195 assists and 1,264 penalty minutes in 691 games as an NHL player.
After finishing a well-respected playing career, Ruff made his coaching debut as an assistant with the Florida Panthers in 1993. Ruff spent four years in Florida, including the Panthers unsuccessful trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 1997. Upon the departure of Ted Nolan from the Buffalo Sabres that same year, Ruff was named the organization’s 15th head coach. Ruff had immediate success, leading the Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 1997-1998 season. In Ruff’s second season as coach, the Sabres reached the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals before finally being eliminated by the Dallas Stars in Game 6. Ruff led the Sabres back to the Eastern Conference Finals in both 2006 and 2007, but fell to the Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators, respectively.
In his 984 regular season games coaching in the NHL, Ruff has recorded 483 wins (19th all-time), 361 losses, 78 ties and 62 overtime losses. Ruff added an Olympic gold medal to his list of achievements in 2010 as an associate coach with Team Canada. After recently signing a 1-year contract extension with the Sabres, Ruff will return as head coach for the 2010-2011 season.
As he himself noted, Ruff’s only item left on the career “to-do” list is to bring the Stanley Cup home to Western New York, whose fans are dying to experience what it’s like to win a world championship. With the Bills missing the playoffs for 10 straight years and providing little hope of reversing the trend in the immediate future, Ruff and the Sabres appear to be the Buffalo sports fan’s best hope for a championship. If Ruff can make this happen, it will likely guarantee him a spot in the other Hall of Fame located just a few hours north on the QEW.