by Paul Peck, Buffalo Sports Page
Shannon Szabados said it. Buffalo Beauts Co-Head Coach Craig Muni and General Manager Nik Fattey nodded in agreement. When it comes to women’s professional hockey, Buffalo is now the destination of choice.
That was confirmed by the signing of Szabados. The two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist signed with the team on Wednesday, and talked about the decision at a media gathering Thursday during the Sabres Developmental Camp.
A move to Ohio to live with her boyfriend made the geography work. But beyond that, it was a decision based on what she’s from the franchise.
“It’s an incredible feeling, an honor. What they’ve done with the new ownership and the kind of a way they’re taking the league and women’s hockey, it was exciting for me,” said Szabados.
She will team with recently signed USA Olympian Nicole Hensley to give the Beauts one of the top goaltending tandems in the NWHL. It’s just another recent signing by the team, bringing in some of the top players in women’s hockey.
There are a few obvious reasons why. The Beauts are now owned by Pegula Sports & Entertainment, and that tie to an NHL ownership group has elevated the team’s stature in the sport. The Harborcenter and adjacent facilities are also a draw. So is the high level of coaching from NHL veterans Muni and Ric Seiling.
For the 31 year old Szabados, the desire to play was still strong, despite the recent disappointing Olympic loss to the USA.
“I didn’t know what the plan was, whether to retire or to play or to play for fun. After the Olympics, I missed having the skates on and I wasn’t ready to hang it up. Buffalo was the closest team, and where they are headed sold me on it.”
The team has signed a number of other veterans, including many with Olympic experience. They appear to be all-in to build a championship team.
“It’s good for women’s hockey, and I’m excited to be here.”