Kyle Okposo missed Friday’s practice. ©2023, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres’ Kyle Okposo ‘blown away’ by chance to speak at ‘Unstoppable Africa’

BUFFALO – During the summer, captain Kyle Okposo told the Sabres a special opportunity had materialized for him to speak at the Global Africa Business Initiative’s “Unstoppable Africa” conference in New York.

The event organized by the United Nations Global Compact was being held Friday, so Okposo needed to be excused from the second day of training camp. The Sabres, of course, had no problem letting him go.

“Everybody recognized the opportunity,” Okposo said following Monday’s session of camp in KeyBank Center. “It’s something, for myself, I felt it was just bigger than sport. It was a global thing. It was a chance to have a platform on a really unique level that I think most guys probably don’t get to.”

The NBA Players’ Association, which organized the athlete panel, received Okposo’s name because he served on the NHL Players’ Association search committee that chose Marty Walsh as the union’s new executive director.

Okposo, whose father, Kome, was born and raised in Nigeria, said he “was pretty blown away” when he was invited to speak.

“I just try live my life the right way, and if I’m going to do something, I do it 100 percent and I put everything into it,” he said. “Through that process last year with helping pick the next NHLPA executive director, I tried to do the same thing. It wasn’t always easy with balancing trying to play hockey, to have a family, to do that all in the same breath. But I did my best and it’s led to some pretty unique things. I’m forever grateful for what I did.”

Okposo, 35, said it “was extremely powerful” to be in the same room with influential people who have opportunities to changed the world.

He spoke on the “Empowering Athletes – An Entrepreneurial Mindset” panel with former NFL player Ndamukong Suh and former NBA player Gorgui Dieng. WNBA player Nneka Ogwumike moderated the discussion.

“They picked the right guy,” Sabres coach Don Granato said of Okposo. “That’s a special guy, we’ve all come to know that. Pretty neat experience.”

Simply chatting with the other athletes backstage was a unique experience.

“It was really cool because I don’t get the opportunity to talk to people in other sports much, have just a completely honest and direct conversation,” Okposo said.

Okposo, whose leadership has helped transform the Sabres into a tight-knit group, spoke about relationships.

“That’s one thing I’ve tried to do is cultivate those, help, especially in my day to day life,” he said. “Being here with where we were at before, I try to help foster better relationships for everybody in the workplace, and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of that.”

Youngstown native Joseph Cecconi, a defenseman the Sabres acquired last season, is expected to play in tonight’s home preseason game against the Boston Bruins.

Cecconi, 26, logged big minutes during the Rochester Americans’ 14-game run in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, goalie Devon Levi and top forwards Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch are also on the game roster.

The Sabres also play Wednesday and Thursday.

Notes: The Sabres held one session Monday with about 35 players on the ice. “I said to Kevyn (Adams) last night we can absolutely do it, the ice is going to be the challenge,” Granato said. “We wanted to get guys moving and you just structure things differently, more five-on-five, more head-to-head.” … Sunday’s game group had the day off. … Sabres forward prospect Viktor Neuchev, who missed the opening days of camp with an undisclosed injury, practiced Monday. … Tonight’s game will be televised on MSG with the NESN feed.

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