Jason Pominville had no time to waste. After a long day of travel from Europe on Monday, the Buffalo Sabres’ captain returned to the ice Tuesday with 10 other teammates as informal workouts continued at the Northtown Center of Amherst.
Pominville got the news of a deal and told Adler Mannheim General Manager Teal Fowler, who is a Batavia native, that he was leaving to return to Buffalo. Pominville drove with Adler teammate and Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, leaving a house in Mannheim at 9:30 a.m. local time to drive to Frankfurt airport. They flew to Newark, getting there about 5 in the afternoon, and Pominville finally got to his suburban Buffalo home at nearly 11:30 Monday night.
“I wanted to be here, make sure I got a good sweat in,” Pominville said of the one-hour workout, during which he wore a black NHLPA sweater. “It’s such a tight turnaround, there was no time for a day off.”
Pominville had five goals and seven assists in 12 games for Adler Mannheim, the German team the Sabres played in an exhibition game as part of the European tour the team opened last season with.
“It was fun, a great organization,” Pominville said. “The GM is a big Sabres fan. They treated me really well. Great fans. It’s different than what we see here — they sing the whole game. They chant. Different kind of vibe. I’m excited I had the chance to go there and play. Obviously I would have rather been here but I’m excited I had the opportunity and my family enjoyed themselves as well.”
Pominville said another enjoyable part of the trip was playing on a line with former Sabre Jochen Hecht, who signed a two-year deal over the summer to rejoin his hometown club. Hecht, whose last two years in Buffalo were marred by concussions, is interested in rejoining the Sabres. He has 13 points in six games in Germany.
“He looks great. He’s healthy. He’s the same Jochen that he’s always been,” Pominville said. “Just one of those guys who is so solid at every area of the ice and was playing really well. No health issues. Everything is fine. He’s just staying there patiently and waiting for an opportunity to play. Whatever team gets him — hopefully it’s us — they’re going to have a good player, that’s for sure.”
Later in the day, General Manager Darcy Regier confirmed the Sabres do have some interest in re-signing Hecht and said he would be in contact with the players’ agent.
Pominville said he was monitoring the progress of talks to end the lockout on the Internet, and went to bed Saturday noting they were still ongoing. He woke up Sunday to learn the sides were still talking and the deal was eventually made in the early afternoon German time.
“Throughout the process, there was a little anger from the players’ side thinking it could have been done earlier, that they weren’t treating us fair,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a business for them and they want to make sure they’re getting the best deal and we were doing the same. It was good we held together.
“Everyone is sorry about what happened. It’s disappointing. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t a strike. It was the league not wanting us to play. We would have wanted to play through the old CBA and they didn’t want to do it that way. Fortunately, we’re going to have a season, be able to play and back to doing what we love.”
Pominville and defenseman Robyn Regehr rejoined their teammates Tuesday for the workout, run by former Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters. Also skating were Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino, Steve Ott, Patrick Kaleta, Matt Ellis, Mike Weber and Jordan Leopold.
“This is what you dream about, to be in the NHL,” said Pominville, whose 30 goals last year were his most since 2006-07. “You don’t really understand the business side of things that go with it until you’re in it. But now that it’s all said and done, we’re excited and we’re just waiting for guys to get back, have skates together, get practices and get going because the turnaround is going to be really quick. We’re going to have to be ready to play in a short amount of time.”