BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Sabres general manager and Clarence native Kevyn Adams shared the sentiment of the youngest players on his roster in processing the magnitude a devastating winter storm that pummeled Western New York over the weekend.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Adams said before the Sabres took the ice at KeyBank Center for the first time in a week, ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.
“It just breaks your heart for people that ended up, whether it was in cars, or stranded, in a really bad spot,” Adams said about a blizzard that has killed at least 40 people. “That’s where perspective comes into play. We get to get up every day and do this for a living. And we need to make sure, and you always remember, how lucky we are. And the first responders and essential workers, what people were doing to even try to allow us to be there today, is pretty remarkable.”
The Buffalo Sabres Foundation on Thursday announced a $50,000 donation for blizzard relief. The funds will aid five organizations providing critical relief in affected areas: Buffalo City Mission, Eight Days of Hope, FeedMore WNY, Friends of Night People, Salvation Army of Buffalo.
“We are committed to doing our part in helping Western New York citizens, many of whom rely on these organizations for support, recover from this storm. We are grateful for the efforts of our first responders and heartbroken for those we have lost,” said Rich Jureller, president of the Buffalo Sabres Foundation, in a news release.
The storm and its aftermath postponed two Sabres games, a home date last Thursday against the Lightning that will now be played March 4, and Tuesday’s game at Columbus that has not yet been rescheduled. The Sabres also weren’t able to get together for team practice before Thursday’s morning skate, extending the NHL’s mandated holiday break from three days to a week.
“Extremely difficult circumstances, but we’re definitely excited to play,” said Sabres captain Kyle Okposo, who gathered a group of eight players to skate at Northtown Center in Amherst on Wednesday. “In saying that, as an overall scope and human being, I just want to offer my condolences to everybody who lost their lives in the storm.”
Okposo compared the winter storm to a tornado that ravaged his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota when he was young.
“It was horrific,” Okposo said. “It was terrifying at times. And I can’t imagine those families, or people that lost loved ones.”
Sabres coach Don Granato, a Chicago native, called it “a surreal experience” watching the storm unfold from his downtown Buffalo residence.
“This is a life-and-death situation for many, and you’re grateful you’re not in that,” Granato said. “Very mindful that there was a lot of people that didn’t come out of this unscathed. And our thoughts and prayers are with those that weren’t so fortunate in this.”
Most of the Sabres remained in Buffalo during the storm. Some lost electricity, including Rasmus Dahlin, who relocated to a nearby hotel with his family from Sweden, and Dylan Cozens, who weathered a power outage lasting nearly two days.
“Even being from the Yukon, I’ve never seen a storm with winds like that,” said Cozens, who posted an Instagram video of his brother running through the squall in his yard. “Just a consistent video for that many days. Nothing quite like that.”
A few players went home for Christmas before the storm hit Buffalo. One of them, Casey Mittelstadt, wound up spending a day in Columbus after traveling from Minnesota before learning that Tuesday’s game had been postponed.
When Mittelstadt turned on his phone after the flight took off, he discovered “like 30 messages telling me not to get on the plane and the game just got canceled. About five minutes earlier, I probably would’ve stayed in Minnesota,” he said.
After “kind of a nice night alone” in Columbus watching the World Juniors tournament, MIttelstadt drove a rental car to Buffalo and was able to walk to HarborCenter to skate with some teammates on Tuesday.
Bringing a season-best four-game win streak into their first home game in 16 days, the Sabres are eager to perform in front of a fanbase digging itself out from a winter storm for the ages.
“Sports is a big part of our culture, big part of our communities,” Granato said. “I know our guys are very, very proud to be Buffalo Sabres. And they’ll be very proud to step on that ice for more than just themselves. I think that’s the greatest thing about being in Buffalo, working for the Sabres, being part of the Sabres. You really do feel like you’re connected with the history that this team has brought to the community. …
“You wind all that together, you watch that snow and storm come in, you go through it, and you’re even more proud to be part of Buffalo.”