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    www.thebillsclub.com

    With a laugh Thurman Thomas Jerseys Stitched , Kim Pegula's competitive nature kicked in when the subject of the Toronto Maple Leafs hiring Hayley Wickenheiser was broached.Impressed as the Sabres president was by the gender-breaking move in August, Pegula's first reaction was wondering how Buffalo's cross-border rival beat her to the punch in making Wickenheiser the NHL's first woman to hold a hockey operations role as assistant director of player development."Darn it," Pegula said, smiling. "I wish I would've done it first."The NHL's first female team president then turned serious."No, I was very glad to see that. I think it's a long time coming," Pegula said. "That's going to have staying power."Wickenheiser was amused when informed of Pegula's initial reaction, hoping other teams such as the Sabres will follow the Maple Leafs in breaking hockey's glass ceiling."Well, that's a good thing," said Wickenheiser, a five-time Olympian and one of the most accomplished women in hockey. "I don't see why we won't see women in other positions like this in the near future."The Maple Leafs also added Noelle Needham as an amateur scout — only the third women to hold such a job in league history — in another move buttressing the idea that the NHL is making progress in welcoming women to key roles."I think respect, courage, getting over tradition, being brave enough to think outside the box is what took so long," Wickenheiser said."Hockey's a very traditional game, very old school in a lot of ways. And the new generation of leadership coming in doesn't think the same way as the old school did," she added. "It's just an evolution of where we're at as a society. And I think hockey's following along with it."Pegula, who with her husband Terry also own the NFL's Buffalo Bills, took over the president's title of both teams in May after Russ Brandon resigned over an alleged inappropriate relationship with a female employee. Rather than hire a new president with both teams breaking in new coaches and general managers, Pegula took over to provide stability.Inroads are being made at the league office, too. In the past two years, ,the NHL has hired Heidi Browning as chief marketing officer, and Kim Davis as executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs.NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stressed the importance of encouraging diversity in a league he says has a fan base almost evenly split between men and women."We want our clubs and our league to hire the most qualified people. But we want to consider applicants with every sort of background," Bettman told The Associated Press. "Diversity is a strength in all forms. So as we're continuing to evolve and grow, having the resource of lots of different people with lots of different backgrounds and experience is only going to make the game stronger."Wickenheiser has long criticized the NHL's lack of diversity, especially when it comes to hiring women as compared with North America's other major professional sports.Dawn Braid was pro hockey's first full-time female assistant in being hired as the Arizona Coyotes skating coach in 2016; she is no longer with the team after a two-year stint.The NBA now features two female assistant coaches, including Becky Hammon Cody Ford Buffalo Bills Jersey , who interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks head-coaching vacancy in spring. In the NFL, Pegula's Bills were the first to hire a full-time female assistant, Kathryn Smith, in 2016, and in August appointed Phoebe Schecter to a season-long coaching internship.Finally, the NHL is catching up, with Wickenheiser saying: "If you're only hiring white men, you're probably missing out on a lot of talent that's out there."Wickenheiser's qualifications are hard to match, male or female. The 40-year-old won four gold medals and a silver, and is the Winter Games career leader with 18 goals and 51 points upon retiring in January 2017.Even though she is pursuing a degree in medicine at the University of Calgary, Wickenheiser jumped at general manager Kyle Dubas' offer to mentor Leafs' prospects both in western Canada and during monthly trips to Toronto.Wickenheiser acknowledged there's added pressure on her to succeed."I think it would be silly to ignore that fact. So yeah, I feel that expectation," she said.And yet, it's no different from the challenges she faced playing on the international stage and in various men's leagues during her 23-year career."To me, it feels pretty natural," she said. "There's something a little bit disarming about it that makes it in some ways easier to have that conversation. They know I'm not a threat to them, because I'm on their side."Pegula's rise to becoming one of the most influential women in sports grew from modest beginnings. She was an orphan in South Korea before being adopted in 1974, and eventually grew up outside of Rochester, New York."I really don't take that for granted, and I realize the situation I'm in," she said of her childhood. "There's nothing I can complain about. And I hope I never lose that excitement and energy of what I do, good or bad, wins and losses."The Pegulas are newcomers to sports. They purchased the Sabres in February 2011, a year after Terry Pegula sold his Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling rights for $4.7 billion to Royal Dutch Shell. Some 3 1/2 years later, they secured the Bills' long-term future in western New York by buying the franchise after the death of owner Ralph Wilson.Kim Pegula acknowledged there's been a steep learning curve in going from being a season-ticket holder to the owner's box of a sports empire that also includes the National Women's Hockey League 's Buffalo Beauts.Pegula regards her role as an equal partnership with her husband, though their interests in approaching their teams differ, which is a reflection of their 25 years in marriage. Terry Pegula enjoys studying film, player development and paying careful attention during games Cody Ford NFL Draft , while Kim veers more toward game presentation, fan amenities and player needs."For Terry, I call him 'a wild-catter' in the oil and gas business. What he loves is finding and developing natural gas fields," she said. "I'm more, and I think it comes from being a mom, whether it's problem solving, figuring things out, getting things done. Execution."It was Kim who played a big role in designing the Sabres and Bills new locker rooms and player lounges.Pegula won't, as she put it, tell coach Phil Housley how to run his power play, but she did have a say in hiring him, and takes a personal approach in getting to know each player.Upon signing with the Sabres in July, goalie Carter Hutton recalled how Pegula texted his wife asking if she needed help getting settled. Pegula then sent gift baskets to Hutton's wife and children."For someone in a position like that to reach out and take the time to really make sure my wife felt comfortable was really important," Hutton said, noting that didn't happen in his previous four stops. "It makes the transition easier for me to focus on playing hockey when everything else is taken care of at home."Pegula is pleased with NHL's emphasis on diversity."What we have now and women being seen in these roles, that trickles down," Pegula said. "So in 10 years, you're going to have qualified coaches available, not just one, much more of a handful."Wickenheiser foresees opportunities opening up on numerous fronts for women, from officiating, coaching to management."Yeah, anything's possible," she said, before breaking into a laugh when asked about her next step."Honestly, I have given that zero thought," Wickenheiser said. "I'm just trying to get through today." ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)AJ McCarron couldn’t help notice the number of draft-eligible quarterback prospects the Buffalo Bills have paraded through their facility in recent days.UCLA’s Josh Allen was in town Monday. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield visited last week.McCarron Cody Ford Jersey Draft , on Tuesday, acknowledged he stopped to chat with some of the former college players to see how they’re holding up through the pre-draft process.And yet, their presence – and the possibility of Buffalo selecting one of them in the first round of the draft next week – won’t distract McCarron from focusing on the reason he signed with the Bills in free agency last month after spending his first four NFL seasons backing up Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.The Bills have an opening for a starter after trading Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland this offseason, and it’s McCarron’s objective to fill the job.”As quarterback, you’ve got to have that confidence and you’ve got to take that approach to it, because if you don’t, you’re already a step behind,” McCarron said after completing the second day of Buffalo’s voluntary offseason conditioning program.He’s started bonding with his new teammates over dinner, by exchanging texts and is already making plans to spend time working out together before the start of training camp.”That’s the way I’ve always done it,” McCarron said. ”I mean, even in Cincy, I knew how to do it and not step on AD’s (Andy Dalton’s) toes.”And forget about him paying attention to what the Bills do in the draft with their nine selections, including two first-rounders at No. 12 and 22.”I can’t worry about it because it creates mental clutter for myself,” McCarron said. ”So for me to worry about ifs and what could happen, it’s just not part of my DNA. I’ve never been that way and won’t ever do it.”General manager Brandon Beane has provided no hints regarding his draft plans. Beane said a GM’s primary responsibility is finding a franchise quarterback. And yet, Beane would also consider this year’s draft a success should the Bills not select a quarterback.McCarron and Nathan Peterman are the only two quarterbacks on the roster, with both having very limited NFL experience.A two-time national champion at Alabama, McCarron appeared in just 11 games with Cincinnati, mostly in mop-up duties. He started four games, including an 18-16 loss to Pittsburgh in a 2016 AFC wild-card playoff in which the Bengals squandered a one-point lead in the final seconds as a result of a turnover and two penalties.Peterman proved he wasn’t ready to be a starter as a rookie last season. The fifth-round pick out of Pittsburgh was yanked after throwing five interceptions in the first half of his first career start in a 54-24 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers in November.Peterman also threw an interception in the final minutes of a 10-3 loss to Jacksonville in an AFC wild-card playoff after Taylor sustained a concussion.Peterman said he’s focused on looking forward after spending the first month of the offseason assessing his rookie season.”The first thing, you’ve got to actually look at what happened and take it all in, feel the pain of those losses and all the mistakes that you made, but also the good things that you did as well,” Peterman said. ”I was able to do that and able to really press that reset button and look ahead.”He also spent time working on his mechanics at the 3DQB quarterback training facility in southern California.Much like McCarron, Peterman isn’t worried whether the Bills draft a quarterback.”It’s all above my head,” Peterman said. ”You can’t be focused on the things you can’t control because it wouldn’t be very productive.”NOTES: DE Cap Capi was released Tuesday. He appeared in five games with Buffalo after being promoted from the practice squad last season. … RB Fred Jackson will sign a one-day contract on Wednesday to retire as a member of the Bills. He played eight seasons in Buffalo and has been out of football since completing the 2015 season in Seattle.—

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