BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Buffalo Sabres played the San Jose Sharks as scheduled Friday night, turning down an offer from the NHL to postpone the game a day after 50 people were killed when a commuter plane crashed into a house.
Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn declined NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly’s offer to postpone the game after consulting with staff and players.
“I called him back and said we thought it was best that we play the game,” Quinn said during the first intermission. “Once we made sure nobody was directly affected on the team and their families, we felt it was best for the community to play the game.”
The Sabres paid tribute to those killed in the crash late Thursday night, with a moment of silence prior to the opening faceoff.
The game was played, but hockey – and much of everything else – took a back seat in Buffalo after Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed into a home in Clarence, just outside the city. The crash, in which all 49 people on board the flight bound from Newark, N.J., were killed instantly, dominated headlines, radio talk shows and was broadcast non-stop on the city’s television stations Friday.
“I think that people want to be with other people at times like this,” Quinn said. “I think it does have a nice community purpose to it.”
Several players and coach Lindy Ruff live near the crash site.
“It’s an incredibly sad day for our city and we’ve talked about it that this is going to reach and touch a lot of people,” Ruff said following the team’s morning skate. “This is bigger than sports. It’s a lot bigger. … I know we have to play a game but something this big touches way too many people.”
Defenceman Teppo Numminen said he heard something wrong with the plane during its approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport just before it crashed.
“I heard a little poof afterwards, and I was thinking, ‘That doesn’t sound good,”‘ Numminen said. “So I looked out my window and saw the red sky and I knew something was wrong.”
Quinn said his daughter, Molly Decker, often takes that same flight to Buffalo.