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Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula was joined by local leaders this afternoon for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Sabres’ new hotel, parking ramp and two ice rinks on the Webster Block across from First Niagara Center.

Pegula told more than 100 people in attendance that the Sabres were going to be aggressive in attracting hockey events to the new HarborCenter. And the crowd applauded his brief speech.

“This is not a small task,” Pegula said. “Many will be involved, but it will succeed.”

He then went on to recount why he got involved with HarborCenter and wanted to build it in Buffalo.

Pegula was joined today by his wife, Kim, and local leaders as they used hockey-stick shovels to dig into the dirt on the 1.7 acres at Scott and Washington streets.

Work is currently under way on the $172 million HarborCenter, which will include two ice rinks, a 200-room hotel and 845-space parking garage.

The rinks’ opening is scheduled for September 2014 with the hotel slated to open in spring 2015.

The project also includes a 12,000-square-foot sports bar at Washington and Scott streets and 8,000 square feet of retail space along Main Street.

A proposal to develop the block from the Sabres and Pegula was selected by Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown in August following a competitive bid process.

Pegula’s opening remark about two people near the podium with him, Brown and Sabres President Ted Black, led to an uncomfortable moment.

“I’m a little confused, I’m sitting on the stage between Mayor Brown and Ted Black, yet I look over there, and I’m wondering, is something backwards here?” he said.

There was a silence and then bewildered laughter before Pegula started again.

“Ted said they’re going to start a law firm, Brown and Black,” he continued.

jrey@buffnews.com