Sabres HC Lindy Ruff wants his team to play like Bills QB Josh Allen

Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff wants his NHL team to emulate the playing style of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Jan 21, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) reacts after a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half for the 2024 AFC divisional round game at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) reacts after a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half for the 2024 AFC divisional round game at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It would be difficult to compile a list of the most beloved figures in the history of Buffalo sports without mentioning Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

Their respective tenures in Western New York differ vastly in length (with Ruff’s roots in the region dating back decades before Allen was even born), but one cannot deny the regard in which Buffalo fans hold them. Ruff has been associated with the Sabres since the team selected him in the second round of the 1979 draft, playing parts of 10 seasons with the team before being named their head coach in 1997. He would serve behind Buffalo’s bench for nearly 16 years, winning a franchise-record 571 games before his dismissal midway through the 2012–13 campaign. The Sabres recently rehired Ruff as their head coach, providing him the opportunity to write a storybook ending to an initial tenure that didn’t conclude as favorably as he would’ve hoped.

Allen, conversely, didn’t arrive in Buffalo until the Bills selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he’s wasted no time in establishing himself as one of the most beloved figures in the region’s history. He’s dragged the Bills from the depths of NFL irrelevancy into perennial contention, leading the team to five consecutive postseason appearances as he’s established himself as one of the best signal-callers in the league.

He’s endeared himself to the Buffalo faithful with his genuine nature and on-field ‘never say die’ mindset—there are moments in which he simply decides he’s taking over, this psyche often resulting in hurdles over defenders, stiff arms through players, and picture-perfect passers over the heads of the opposition. There are moments where he visibly puts his team, the fanbase, and the entire city on his back, an element that’s simply impossible not to cheer for.

Related: Josh Allen is the lone Bills player to crack CBS Sports' Top 100 NFL players list

And as Ruff rejoins a Sabres team that hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since the 2010–11 season, he’s looking to Allen—and particularly the gallantry with which he plays—as inspiration. The veteran coach recently had the opportunity to visit One Bills Drive to view a minicamp practice, meeting Allen ahead of last Wednesday’s session. Ruff spoke about the experience during a recent interview with WKBW’s Matthew Bové, praising the quarterback before stating that he wants his team to emulate Allen's psyche.

“I think of shaking Josh Allen’s hand today—what an honor that was for me to shake [the hand of] a football player that is that good,” Ruff said. “He’s a tremendous athlete, he’s a tremendous quarterback. It was an honor for me to step on his field and shake his hand. 

“I’ve got the utmost respect for how he plays the game. If you could take the way Josh Allen plays—fearless, give me the ball, I’ll take it—some of that game that he plays, that’s the game that our players need to play. That fearless, relentless, because when the game is on the line, Josh wants the ball.”

Ruff, who maintained a residence in Western New York even after his departure, adopted Bills fandom after his initial arrival and has, thus, watched Allen evolve from a talented player in need of fine-tuning into a worldbeating quarterback who is objectively one of the world's best at the position. It’s an evolution Ruff hopes to oversee with the Sabres, a team that possesses a lot of skill and scoring ability but is in need of the right voice to push it over the proverbial hump.

Ruff hopes to be the person to once again steer the Sabres back toward relevancy and contention, as he knows there’s no place in the world quite like Buffalo, NY when its sports teams are competitive.

“This city, when the Bills are winning, when the Sabres are winning, [it’s] pandemonium with the fans,” Ruff told Bové. “The playoff atmosphere in that building, the number of people outside. I’m talking whether it’s football, whether it’s hockey, whether it’s lacrosse, we have a great sports city here.”


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Kyle Silagyi

KYLE SILAGYI