By Budd Bailey
Dave Snuggerud probably didn’t expect to get an interview request when he returned for a Sabres game last week as part of the team’s 50th anniversary celebration. After all, he spent less than three years here. However, Snuggerud was a thoughtful and friendly face on the Buffalo roster from 1989 through 1992. He deserves to be remembered.
Snuggerud was picked by the Sabres in 1987 in the supplemental draft, which was used to prevent bidding wars to break out over American college players who went undrafted at 18. Snuggerud was on the 1988 United States Olympic team, and signed after finishing his third season at the University of Minnesota. He was quite happy to be back and seeing familiar faces such as Rob Ray and Dave Andreychuk during his visit.
Buffalo Sports Page: How long has it been since you’ve been in Buffalo?
Dave Snuggerud: I had been here last summer, but before that it had been 15 or 20 years. I came back here with my son when he was participating in national development stuff. It’s great to come back now. There’s a lot going on in this city.
When I was here last summer, Casey Mittelstadt opened his house up for us. He’s a Minnesota kid. I got to stay down at his place by the waterfront, and there were plenty of things to see. I run a private school back in Minnesota, and his brothers go to that school. The Mittelstadt family has wonderful people.
Western New York reminds me of St. Paul. It’s a great place for a fanbase. The Buffalo fans were great because they were true to what they wanted to see. They wanted to see effort and they appreciated effort. You go around the community and they’d tell you what they thought. When it wasn’t good, they’d let you know. When it was, they’d tell you so. It was fun.
BSP: When you walked into the KeyBank Center, you certainly noticed the t-shirts that made the arena look like Memorial Auditorium. That must have instantly triggered some memories.
Snuggerud: It made me think of the guy that did the dance up on the side, the Earl of Bud. When I was playing, they had the same warmup songs all the time. When they come on the radio now, it’s fun to say, “I remember that from the Aud.”
BSP: You walked on to a team on the rise in 1989-90. The Sabres finished with 98 points, third in the league. What was it like to be a part of that?
Snuggerud: You go there for one reason – to win the Stanley Cup. It’s a letdown when you don’t get to that point. I was part of a great team because of the guys. It was really fun because there was always comradery among the guys at lunch. Then after the game, we had something called “the hot stove” where we would hang out and talk hockey. I was part of a group that loved hockey. They were there to make me a better hockey player. It was a fortunate situation for me to come into.
BSP: Craig Ramsay once told me that you were the type of player that filled a role and helped make a good team better. He pointed out that you were good defensively and could kill penalties. In fact, he said that you more useful to the Sabres than you would have been to the minor league team in Rochester for that reason.
Snuggerud: I was smart enough back then to realize that if I played with Alex Mogilny, he was going to make me look good. I knew when I had the puck to get it to Alex or Pierre Turgeon. I tried to cover for them defensively. They were very skilled and they were fun to watch at practice as long as I could back them up defensively. They could entertain the fans on offense.
BSP: During your time here, you played for owners Seymour and Norty Knox. How did they strike you?
Snuggerud: Great people. They’d come down to the locker room after the games. We kind of had fun with them every once in a while. We’d change seats in the locker room to see if they knew who we were. But they knew everybody. I was very grateful for their service to the people in Buffalo.
BSP: You retired in 1994 after playing with the Sharks and Flyers. Eventually you became a school principal who also coaches the hockey team. That’s an interesting combination. How did that happen?
Snuggerud: I always wanted to be a school teacher. The hockey was great and a good experience, but that’s what I wanted to do. So I run a private school in Chaska, Minnesota. It’s been working really well.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)