Graduated Griffins: Michael Gilbert ’90

By Nathan Ress

Assistant Features Editor

609f57e7-811c-4654-a88c-35d5d4a64a96.jpg

Gilbert at his office in the First Niagara Center

After wandering the vacant halls of the First Niagara Center for a panicked moment, stopping to ask for directions just once, this reporter finally found his way into the 300 level suite offices to talk to Michael Gilbert ‘90, Vice President of Public and Community Relations for the Buffalo Sabres.

Gilbert, affectionately called “Gibby” by the suite receptionist, welcomed me and led me into his office. I was forced to pause a moment, letting my eyes adjust as I gazed out of the wonderful view his office offered. The window painted a picture of the Buffalo Canal shimmering in the midday sun of early March. Canalside stretched alongside cloaked in melting snow as we shook hands and sat down at a conference table, viewing from a height to rival the Skyway.

           Gilbert started upon his path to this office over 20 years ago, graduating from St. Joes Collegiate Institute and choosing to attend Canisius College for his higher education. Like many students, he chose Canisius because it was close to home, fitting his financial and educational needs. He was a commuter student like many who attended Canisius at that time. Despite the large commuter population, Gilbert has fond memories of spending time in school with his classmates. He remembers time in the library, something he remembers as “more of a lounge,” and place of gathering for peers. Gilbert also cites his graduation as a “standout moment,” the culmination of four years of hard work. This climactic moment is something that has stuck with him as a point of pride well into his professional years.

During his time at Canisius, Gilbert was also heavily involved in the baseball as well as hockey teams. He was team manager for both, running the behind the scenes aspects of two of Canisius’ most competitive teams. He cites this experience as integral to the rest of his career, saying, “If I didn’t get my start at Canisius, I wouldn’t have moved on to what I did.”

After graduation Gilbert moved on to public relations positions before landing at the Buffalo Sabres. He served on the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles before moving into the NHL where he worked in the Public Relations Department of the New Jersey Devils before coming to Buffalo in 1997. He worked on the Buffalo Sabres staff that earned the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association’s Dick Dillman Award for excellence in public relations in 1997-1998, as well as the staff of the New Jersey Devils which won the award the previous year.

Gilbert’s time as a public relations man also took him all the way to Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. (Fans may recall the extended shootout and the heroic performance of T.J. Oshie scoring four goals on six attempts.) In Sochi, he served on the public relations team of the U.S. men’s ice hockey team. Remembering this experience, Gilbert expressed his sense of awe at the scale and honor of the experience. “I was in the center of the world at that point,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert, a Tonawanda native, regards it as an honor to be able to represent his home town hockey team. He recognizes that of the 30 NHL teams with 30 public relations heads, very few of whom can boast of this fact. “I don’t take that lightly,” he said. This is his 18th season with the Sabres and he looks back fondly on past seasons, as well as towards future seasons with hope. He was on staff for the 1999 Stanley Cup Finalist season, as well as the 2007 and 2008 Eastern Conference finalist season.

Gilbert also recognizes the current growth of Buffalo and his role close to its center. As a community relations officer for what is arguably the city’s favorite team, he is very excited and connected to this momentum. He cites the Pegula family for their supreme dedication and financial commitment to the city. “Look at what happened in the last four years,” Gilbert says, “and think of what could happen in the next four.”

Gilbert’s office overlooks the newly renovated Canalside area, allowing him to literally watch as Buffalo progressed. “In the summer there are thousands of people walking around; four years ago there was nobody.” He looks forward to the future of Buffalo, using the now familiar word “renaissance” to describe the current trend.

Gilbert has also remained heavily involved in Canisius after his graduation. He sits on the Board of Regents for the school, staying up to date on the school’s policies and happenings. Gilbert was also a major facilitator of the HARBORCENTER becoming the home-ice location of the Griffs, attending the inaugural game as well as subsequent contests.

He does wish the crowd showing at HARBORCENTER games was a little stronger. “Hop on the subway and come on down,” Gilbert encourages. Every Canisius student is entitled to a CRAM pass, allowing them free use of all Metro services, including a route to HARBORCENTER.

Gilbert further encourages students to get involved as much as possible on campus. He cites his own slowness to break out of his shell as “something [he] would change if [he] could.” He looks to college as a time to gain experiences, meeting people, and growing one’s social repertoire. He urges students to make as many connections as possible and jump on every opportunity, saying, “Get involved. Don’t sit in your dorm.”

Gilbert plans to stay with the Public Relations Department of the Sabres, anticipating the team will follow the lead of the surrounding area with an on-ice renaissance that parallels that of the city they call home.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


© 2013 The Griffin. All rights reserved.
%d bloggers like this: