May 21, 2024

1.pngBy Andrew Mossbrooks | @Mossbrooks48


Amir Gulati is a lifelong Sabres fan. The Buffalo native grew up in an era where the Sabres were playing some of their best hockey, including 1999, when the team reached its second and most recent Stanley Cup Final.


It was that year that a three-year-old Gulati spoke the future into existence, telling his father, Ashvani, and mother, Kanika, that he would one day be a Buffalo Sabre. Fast forward 24 years later and Gulati is the video coordinator for the team he idolized growing up.


“I think once it was officially released, I got over 300 messages and phone calls and emails from people that, some of whom, I hadn't talked to in 10 or more years,” said Gulati. “I didn’t really expect that. I think to me, it was one of those very surreal moments. Yes, I'm the person who gets to have my face on Instagram and Twitter, but at the end of the day, when I see those posts, I actually think about all of the people that helped me get here, because there is absolutely no way that I could have done this by myself.”


And there was a time where it looked like there was no way Gulati would reach his childhood goal. Obstacles throughout his journey made the roadblocks to the NHL difficult to drive past. It started from his youth, when he first dreamt of captaining the Sabres to a Stanley Cup, where he would lift the 35-pound trophy above his head. It didn’t take long for a revelation to strike Gulati.


“I didn't really make it out of house league,” he chuckled. “I was an atrocious athlete. I learned pretty quickly that I'd have to find a way to make an impact in this organization in a slightly different way.”


At first, it was his athletic ability. Then, it was his background. He comes from an Indian family. The Gulati’s don’t have a background in hockey, nor were they connected with anyone who could assist him in building connections. The expectations of his culture put pressure on both he and his parents.


“I am the firstborn in our family, and I am a male, so there are lots of responsibilities. We know every doctor in Buffalo, but that's because almost every single one of the people in my life growing up were exclusively doctors. I appreciate what they do so much, but I knew that my path had to be different. It was never going to be the typical path, and for my parents, it wasn't always easy for them to support a lot of the decisions that I made. I was a bit of a donkey in the way that I probably went about making some decisions.”


The support of his mom and dad were put to the test in 2021. Gulati had graduated from the University of Michigan three years prior in 2018, earning a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. A man of many interests and no dull moments, Gulati took to pursuing his other passion: being an author. The Stephen King enthusiast was penning horror novels of his own, with titles such as The Woman in White and Blackbirds.


Despite a college degree and progress in the field of said degree, Gulati’s love for the game of hockey continued to bubble underneath the surface. While at Michigan, he served as student video coordinator for the team’s NCAA-DI men’s hockey team. Gulati realized video was something he could excel in. This was his opportunity to get in on the business and hockey operations side of an organization. This could potentially be a viable path to working in the sport. It took three years following graduation for his first break to come in hockey.


In 2021, the Iowa Heartlanders were an expansion team in the ECHL, the AA affiliate of the American Hockey League. Gulati was offered the position of being the team’s inaugural video coach. He had finally been given a job offer in hockey.


The caveat? Compensation. Gulati would be paid in a currency many college students or recent graduates have grimaced at: experience.


A move from the Northeast to the Midwest for no pay and long hours. A move most would find easy to reject, but one that was impossible for Gulati to turn away.


“When the call came from Iowa to go and move to Iowa City where I knew nobody and nothing about the sport, really for free, I told them (my parents) this is my last chance. This is my one and only chance if I want to be a part of this sport and I know I can do it. I know that they faced a tremendous amount of pressure from other people, just because they were going out on a limb and allowing me to do something so different. They looked at me and said, ‘okay’, and so then I spent the year in Iowa.”


A year in Iowa put Gulati on the hockey map and did so with his hometown organization. A year later, the Rochester Americans posted a video coach and team services position with the storied AHL franchise. Gulati was quick to submit his resume, filling it with a bevy of bullet points highlighting his experience with the Heartlanders and what he could do for the Amerks. There was one additional point placed at the bottom of his resume. It reads: “Proud member of Bills Mafia.”


“It was the final bullet point on my resume, and it was on every resume that I submitted, not just to Buffalo. Being a Bills fan is one of the things that I'm proudest of.”


“Seriously,” said now Sabres assistant coach Seth Appert with a smile. “That’s one of the reasons I called him in the first place.”


“I tell people this a lot,” Gulati continued. “Being from Buffalo and being a Sabres fan and a Bills fan has been one of the best things to ever happen in my life. I don't think I've ever been prouder to tell people anything that I'm from Buffalo, and that to me, it's a magical city. I love the people there. I think it's a very supportive city and community. In my most formative years, I grew up watching guys like Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Brian Campbell, Miroslav Satan; all these guys that I idolized. They were the people that inspired me to work and believe in myself.”


The belief Gulati instilled internally was felt from those surrounding him in Rochester. His two years with the Amerks working on the Sabres development ladder allowed him to reach the top rung on the structure, as he departs the Flower City for the City of Light, the place that gave him this dream from the start. The place he calls home.


“Amir Gulati drips with positivity, energy, passion, love, and our players love him,” said Appert. “That’ll be missed here (in Rochester), but that’s also an amazing asset to bring to Buffalo.”


And when Gulati gets home, a familiar face is waiting for him. Justin White, the Sabres’ head video coach, is a lifelong friend of Gulati’s.


“It’s pretty funny that the kid I used to have playdates with in kindergarten gets to be my boss,” said Gulati. “It really is a full circle moment.”


So many in this sport dream of reaching the NHL. Those three letters live in the heads of several hopefuls that want to say they’ve been there. Appert practically made it a phrase to tell players who were getting called-up that they were ‘going to the National.’ For Gulati, however, this dream is only coming true because of the logo he gets to represent, not the league.


“As great as making the NHL is, frankly, that shield never really held much importance to me. It was the Buffalo Sabres that meant everything to me. There are amazing organizations across the league, and I would have been humbled to have worked for any of them, but making the Buffalo Sabres is what makes me feel like I did it. Every kid growing up in Buffalo wanted to be a Buffalo Sabre. For some inexplicable reason, and by the most unexpected twist of fate, I somehow managed to convince everyone, perhaps wrongly, that I was capable of being a Buffalo Sabre.”


What Gulati lacked in athletics, connections, and background, he made up for in heart, determination, and perseverance. And now 24 years later, he made true on his word to Ashvani and Kanika. His parents gave him their blessing to pursue his dreams that were spoken to them when he was three years old.


Gulati has written novels in the horror genre, but the 27-year-old’s story is one of a fairytale. Perhaps one day he’ll find himself in a writer’s chair at a desk again and think to switch genres, but for now, Gulati is heading back home to do what he always knew he would: be a Buffalo Sabre.

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