ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Brian Gionta was back on home turf Monday night, signing autographs at Frontier Field one month after signing a three-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres.
After more than 17 years away from home, the Greece native is glad to be back playing hockey in his neck of the woods.
"We’re excited about it,” Gionta said. “It’s something we’ve been trying to do for quite some time. We love the area. We spend time here during the summers. My wife and I are both from here so to be back closer to home, closer to family and friends, it’s special to us.”
Fans in Rochester have watched Gionta win a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils and captain the Montreal Canadiens for the past four years.
“When I heard that he was coming back I was totally stoked,” said Tasha Borys, Fairport resident.
“It’s nice he’s coming home,” said Nicole Pierce, Greece resident. “We have a lot of new talent that’s coming in so hopefully with his leadership and his experience he’ll be able to teach them new things and we’ll produce a winning team in a few years here.”
As for Gionta, even when compared to competing for Team USA at the 2006 games in Italy, there’s just no place like home.
“It’s always something you kind of dreamed of,” Gionta said. “You know, I grew up watching the Amerks and the Sabres when I was a kid, and when the opportunity presented itself, we were pretty excited about it.”
Gionta also said Monday's announcement that Buffalo would host the 2015-2016 NHL combine just shows the direction the Sabres' organization is heading in.
"Any event like that, whether it's the draft or the combine, things like that gain recognition for the area, gain recognition for the organization,” Gionta said. “It's nice that they're rewarded with having it for the next couple of years."