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Sabres fans willing to pay coach's fine

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Don't worry, Lindy, Buffalo Sabres fans are
prepared to pick up your $10,000 fine from the NHL.

That's the message Lindy Ruff received Monday when at least two
separate fan-based fundraisers were launched to pay the fine
against the coach for his role in a wild brawl that broke out
during a game against Ottawa last week.

"Put down the pen, put away the checkbook. This one's on us,"
said Chris Phillips, co-owner of a Buffalo-area pizza parlor, who
plans to donate 10 percent of every sale toward what he called, The
Lindy Ruff Fine Fund.

"I know Lindy's got the means to pay. But it's just kind of an
outrage," Phillips said. "This is our way of supporting the
team."

Phillips is among growing group of Sabres fans unhappy with the
league for choosing not to penalize Ottawa's Chris Neil, who
knocked out and bloodied Sabres co-captain and leading scorer
Chris Drury with a blindside hit during Buffalo's 6-5 shootout win over
the Senators on Thursday.

Ruff was fined for helping spark the brawl, which started after
the ensuing face off, by sending out his three toughest forwards
against Ottawa's top line. Ruff also acknowledged he was at least
thinking, "Go out and run 'em," when he sent out his players.

"Any coach would've done the same thing," Phillips said.

Sabres fan Pat Ruffino had the same idea when he launched his
own fundraiser, which will involve a rally at another Buffalo pizza
parlor scheduled for March 5.

"It's to send a message to the NHL," Ruffino said, questioning
why the league did not penalize Neil for what the Sabres have
described as a vicious blow to the head. "[The league] made the
statement that this action was in the standard of play, which
obviously, coach Ruff didn't think it was. And the fans support him
in that. It's not good for hockey."

Ruff smiled when asked about the fundraisers after practice
Monday.

"For the fans to step in is incredible," Ruff said. "But at
the end of the day, I'm responsible for what I've done, and they're
trying to cover my tracks, which is good, I guess."

Ruff said whatever money raised will not go toward paying the
fine, but instead will be donated to charity.

The Sabres issued a statement released on their Web site, asking
fans not to donate money to Ruff or the team.

"It certainly is a wonderful gesture by our fans to want to
assist Lindy through various fundraisers," the statement read.
"But the team will pay the fine."

Both Phillips and Ruffino are prepared to donate any money
raised to the charity of the Sabres choosing.