Joe Battista is coming home to State College.
After spending the last year-and-a-half with the Buffalo Sabres, Battista is leaving his post as vice president of hockey-related business to spend more time with his family.
Battista confirmed the move via text message Monday night.
The time spent in Buffalo, and the four-hour drive each way through rural northwest Pennsylvania and western New York, was wearing on the energetic and outgoing Battista, whose family stayed in State College.
He had been with the NHL team, and owners Terry and Kim Pegula, since late 2013.
“Been working on this (decision) with Terry and Kim since May,” Battista said in the text message. “I gave it a shot but being away from my family was taking its toll, as was driving up and down (U.S. Route) 219!”
He said he is finishing a book on leadership and goal-setting and plans to start his own consulting business, and will not be returning to work for Penn State. He said his only involvement in Nittany Lion hockey will be as a fan and volunteer fund-raiser.
Battista is a Penn State graduate and former player with the Icers club hockey team, and later was the program’s national championship-winning head coach. He held several positions with the university, including with the Nittany Lion Club as well as associate athletic director for ice hockey. He was instrumental in landing an $88 million gift from the Pegulas, with a later addition of another $14 million from the couple, to build Pegula Ice Arena and elevate the men’s and women’s programs to Division I varsity status. The Nittany Lion hockey teams began playing at the Division I level in 2012, and the arena opened in October 2013.
“It’s been quite a ride over the past 5 years and I have learned so much that I want to share with others,” he said in the text message. “Exciting new challenge ahead but raring to go.”
The Sabres finished this past season with the league’s worst record, and had the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, choosing Boston University star and Hobey Baker Award winner Jack Eichel. The team has made a number of moves since the season ended to shake up the franchise.