Kyle Okposu He felt a sense of obligation to the Buffalo Sabers on the July day he signed his seven-year contract in 2016.
“Honestly, for more money than I thought I’d ever make,” Okposo said on Saturday. “I felt it created a sense of duty in me to this organization, and that’s kind of the way I started.”
This commitment has evolved over six years. Okposo watched his family grow in size and his children grow up while they were in Buffalo. He made western New York his full-time home.
“You left a really special place in my heart where I want this place to succeed,” Okposo said. “I want swords to succeed. I know how hard it is sometimes for sports fans in this city and for people in this city because so much of life is connected with bills and swords. And I feel that every day, especially when I am here in the summer and even in the winter.”
“We have a bad game, you hear people talking about it, people are frustrated. You have a great game and people are in good mood and I just feel this connection to the city. That’s why it’s so important to me to try and leave this place in a better place than I found it.”
This commitment—to the organization, the community, and his colleagues—made the announcement that came on Saturday seem almost inevitable.
Sabers General Manager Kevin Adams has named Okposo the 20th full-time team leader in Sabers history during a group event with players, staff and their families. Zymjus Jergenson And the Rasmus Dahlen He will serve as alternate leaders.
“It’s impossible to overstate what Kyle meant to this group – he’s patient, lifelong learner, well-balanced, and most of all, proud of being a Buffalo Saber,” Adams said.
“When times get tough, Kyle knows when to speak up, and when to do, the team takes it seriously. Kyle and his family have made Buffalo their home and want to see our organization succeed, on and off the ice. I am proud that Kyle will represent our organization with dignity and dignity.”
The Sabers chose not to name a captain last season, opting instead to have Okposo and the Girgensons serve as full-time replacements. Dahlin joined as a substitute in select games later in the season.
The goal for Adams and coach Don Granato was to foster an environment in which players could be away from the rink while remaining competitive any time they were on the ice. The Okposo and the Girgensons—the overwhelmingly young roster veterans—set the early tone for the established culture over the course of eight months.
Under their leadership, the Sabers showed tangible signs of improvement, playing at a pace of 102 points over the final two months of the season. The players enjoyed their career years. Team members defended each other on the ice and chose to spend time together away from it.
“I’m proud of where this organization is and not naive enough to think it’s all because of me or anything like that,” Okposo said.
“I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’m happy to be someone that the players in this organization and the players that play on the team can look at and try to keep pushing this culture forward.” I’m very proud of where we are from the team’s point of view. It’s not a guarantee that the results follow a good culture, but it’s a very good start. This is certainly what I am most proud of over the past year. “
Meanwhile, Okposo made a conscious decision not to overextend—after years of trying to put out every fire that might arise, he focused on himself and let his leadership flow from there.
Once this is done, he becomes everything for Sabers – a shoulder that his teammates can count on, an example of how to work and how to deal with people, and a guiding voice when standards are not met.
“You have to be a humble and hardworking man in this organization,” Dahlin said. “If you don’t work hard, he’ll tell you.”
Dylan Cousins Put it more briefly.
“It’s the life of the sword,” said Cousins.
Okposo has taken outside ownership of the Sabers’ culture, Writing open lettersfor the people of Buffalo and make his presence felt in the community. It was voted by fans as the winner of the Rick Martin Memorial Award in May, whose requirements include snowboarding excellence, resilience and dedication to the community.
All this comes naturally. Okposo was never a leader, never his goal. He’s picked up pieces of the leaders he’s played with along the way – but more than anything, he’s leading by being himself.
“This letter, I don’t think, was sewn to my shirt because of what I can do,” he said. “It depends, I think, on what I did, what I tried and how I acted. So, I wouldn’t change anything about what I was doing.”
Okposo now has one year left on her seven-year contract. But his commitment — to the Sabers, the young players in the room, the people at Buffalo — now extends even further.
“I have no illusions that I will outlast the organization,” he said. “No one does that. Not a single player in history has surpassed any organization.
“I just want to make sure there’s something tangible when I leave, that guys are set up for continued success off the ice and how they treat people and make this place, making KeyBank Center a great place for everyone to come to work. That’s my goal.”