By Mike Harrington
As you would imagine, some pretty raw emotions in the Sabres' locker room early this afternoon as they got set to head to Boston for Wednesday night's game against the Bruins, which will be the first in the city since Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon.
Rookie defenseman Chad Ruhwedel was playing last week for Frozen Four team Mass-Lowell, a 30-minute commuter train ride away from downtown, and was shaking his head that he could have been at the site of the blasts had he not signed his pro contract and come to Buffalo on Saturday.
"It was just heartbreaking to see that," Ruhwedel said. "The Boston Marathon is huge. Marathon Monday is huge. People go out having fun all day long. It's a good time all day. For something like that to happen is devastating.
"If I didn't have this great opportunity, I'd probably would have been down there hanging out with my team. It hit me like that. I would have been somewhere in the vicinity."
Ruhwedel said he talked to friends, teammates and family members and everyone is OK in the wake of the blast. He said his teammates didn't see the actual explosions but were close by in the area when they happened on Boylston Street at 2:50 p.m.
Winger Nathan Gerbe, a former Hobey Baker runner-up at Boston College, had a look of similar shock.
"You know exactly where it is. I've walked past there I couldn't even tell you how many times," Gerbe said. "At times for yourself, you thank God for keeping you safe. But something like this happening is embarrassing for our world to affect innocent people and innocent children. Sad."
Gerbe said he's likely to just stay inside the Sabres' hotel the next couple days and not wander around Boston like he normally does.
"I think you're a little worried going into the city obviously," he said. "They don't know exactly why and how and who. You don't know the rhyme or reasons around it. Going into the city, I'm a little nervous and a little cautious I guess. I don't know if I'm going to go out walking around in the city or not. I'm probably just going to stay in the hotel and chill."
Steve Ott, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said he was touched deeply by the death of 8-year-old Martin Richard in the blast.
"It's horrific. Obviously life doesn't make sense sometimes," Ott said. "... The stories that are coming out of that incident are just horrible."
The Sabres figure to enter an emotionally charged atmosphere Wednesday in TD Garden, with the eyes of the nation likely to be on pregame ceremonies.
"It's going to be a little bit overwhelming to start the game with heavy hearts just as people," Ott said. "It's extremely disheartening to hear and see. ... I'm sure there will be a lot of mixed emotions. ... Everyone is going to be playing with heavy hearts. It's going to be very touching to start the game."
Click below to hear audio from Gerbe, Ruhwedel and Ott.