BUFFALO, N.Y. — Veteran forward Kyle Okposo is the new captain of the Sabres, officially recognizing the leadership role he’s had on the team for several seasons.
The team revealed its captain group for the 2022-23 season, which includes forward Zemgus Girgensons and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin as alternates, in a social media graphic on Saturday. Okposo, Girgensons and Dahlin each wore the “A” on their sweaters last season, as the Sabres did not have a captain after stripping the “C” from Jack Eichel during training camp.
Okposo was announced as the Sabres 20th full-time captain by Buffalo’s general manager Kevyn Adams during a team function Saturday with players, staff, and their families. The announcement followed Friday night’s preseason finale, in which Okposo was scratched due to an upper-body injury, and the Sabres open the regular season at KeyBank Center this coming Thursday.
“It’s impossible to overstate what Kyle has meant to this group — he is patient, he is a lifelong learner, he is levelheaded, and most of all, he is proud to be a Buffalo Sabre,” Adams said in an article on the team website.
“When times get difficult, Kyle knows when to speak up, and when he does, the team takes it to heart. Kyle and his family have made Buffalo their home and want to see our organization succeed, both on and off the ice. I am proud that Kyle will represent our organization with class and dignity.”
Okposo was expected to fill the vacant captaincy. He had been an alternate captain for five seasons, is popular with the fanbase as well as a respected voice in the locker room, and coming off his most productive season in Buffalo with 21 goals.
In a WIVB.com poll asking readers who should be the next captain, Okposo received more than 47% of the vote. Forward Alex Tuch, acquired midway through last season from Vegas in the trade for Jack Eichel, was second with 39%, followed by Dahlin (6%). Just 2% of readers voted for Girgensons, while 6% chose “other.”
“There’s a lot of guys that we know have the capability of either being or becoming a captain at this level,” coach Don Granato said at the start of training camp. “You can have an extreme leader who is not necessarily captain material. A captain has to be very comfortable getting in a guy’s face and calling guys out. That’s a big part of captaincy, too. And it’s a burden. That’s a lot. So when you think of young guys, sometimes that’s a concern for any organization.”
Okposo is the second-longest tenured Sabre after Girgensons, and at age 34, he is the team’s second-oldest player after goaltender Craig Anderson, who is 41. Okposo is in the final year of the $42 million contract he signed with the Sabres as a free agent in 2016.
“For frankly more money than I thought I would ever make,” Okposo told Sabres.com. “I felt like it created a sense of duty in me that I had to this organization, and that’s kind of how it started. …
“It’s left a really special place in my heart where I want this place to succeed. I want the Sabres to succeed. I know how difficult it’s been at times for sports fans in this city and for the people in this city because so much of life is connected to the Bills and the Sabres. And I feel that every day, especially when I’m here in the summer and even in the winters.
“We have a bad game, and you hear people talking about it, people are down. You have a great game and peoples’ moods are up and I just feel that connection to the city. That’s why it’s just so important for me to try and leave this place in a better place than I found it.”
Sabres captain history
|Gerry Meehan||1971-72 – Oct. 1974|
|Jim Schoenfeld||Oct. 1974- 1976-77|
|Don Luce (due to injury to Jim Schoenfeld)||Jan. 1976|
|Danny Gare||1977-78 – 1980-81|
|Gilbert Perreault||1981-82 – Nov. 1986|
|Lindy Ruff||Nov. 1986 – Feb. 1989|
|Mike Foligno||Feb. 1989 – Dec. 1990|
|Dave Andreychuk (due to injuries to Mike Foligno)||Jan. 1990 – March 1990|
|Mike Ramsey||Jan. 1991 – Oct. 1992|
|Pat LaFontaine||Oct.1992 – 1996-97|
|Alexander Mogilny (due to injury to Pat LaFontaine)||Nov. 1993 – April 1994|
|Michael Peca||1997-98 – 1999-2000|
|Donald Audette (due to injury to Michael Peca)||April 18, 1998|
|Stu Barnes||2001-02 – March 2003|
|Miroslav Satan||Oct. 2003|
|Chris Drury||Nov. 2003|
|James Patrick||Dec. 2003|
|J-P Dumont||Jan. 2004|
|Daniel Briere||Feb. 2004|
|Chris Drury||March 2004|
|Jochen Hecht||Oct. 2007|
|Toni Lydman||Nov. 2007|
|Brian Campbell||Dec. 2007|
|Jaroslav Spacek||Jan. 2008|
|Jochen Hecht||Feb. 2008|
|Jason Pominville||March 2008|
|Craig Rivet||Oct. 2008 – Feb. 2011|
|Jason Pominville||2011-12 – April 2013|
|Thomas Vanek||Oct. 2013|
|Steve Ott||Oct. 2013 – Feb. 2014|
|Brian Gionta||2014-15 – 2016-17|
|Jack Eichel||2018-19 – 2020-21|
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.