Sabres keep victims of Buffalo blizzard in their thoughts as they return to action

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After having two games postponed because of what many are calling the biggest snowstorm in their city’s history, the Buffalo Sabres finally returned to the rink on Thursday ahead of a home game against the Detroit Red Wings.

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With the driving ban in Buffalo lifted at midnight, the decision was made to go ahead with the game.

At least 38 people have died as a result of the blizzard, which started last Friday. The Sabres will hold a moment of silence for the victims before the game, per Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.

“A little bit of a surreal experience,” Sabres coach Don Granato said after morning skate. “We went through COVID break so there’s some familiarity from those breaks and there’s understanding there’s things much greater than you, much greater than our team or the Buffalo Sabres or hockey, and this was one of them.

“This was one of those, several days in a row, where you listen to the news, you see the storm … and you realize OK, this is a life and death situation for many …”

The Sabres’ skate on Thursday was their first time gathering as a group in a week. Because of the driving ban in the city, players who lived near the KeyBank Center walked to the arena to get some skating in while others got ice time in the suburbs.

Several players living downtown near the rink lost power and got rooms at nearby hotels.

GM Kevyn Adams, who grew up in the area, said on Christmas Eve he took a half-mile walk to check on his mother in law.

“Two hours there and back in the snow,” Adams said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It just breaks your heart for people that ended up whether in cars, stranded or in really bad spots. That’s where perspective comes into play. We get to get up every day and do this for a living. You make sure you always remember how lucky we are. What the first responders and essential workers were doing to even allow us to be here today is pretty remarkable.”

The Sabres’ home game last Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning and a road game on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets both were postponed.

While the call on the Lightning game was made before the storm hit, there was uncertainty on the Columbus game before the call was made on Monday. One Sabre, Casey Mittelstadt, actually made his way to Columbus after the holiday break. When it was postponed, he started his journey back to Buffalo.

After Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz and Buffalo mayor Byron Brown grabbed the spotlight on Wednesday by taking verbal shots at each other for their work in the cleanup while the death count was rising, the hockey game could provide an something of an emotional boost for a region that has had a tragic 2022.

Ten people were killed in a shooting targeting the Black community in a supermarket earlier this year.

“Our guys are very, very proud to be Buffalo Sabres and they’ll be very proud to step on that ice tonight for more than just themselves,” Granato said, per Harrington.

Watch the Sabres-Red Wings game Thursday at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT on Sportsnet East or SN NOW.

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