Patrick Kaleta must wonder if the locusts are next.
The Angola native has played exactly one game for the Buffalo Sabres in the last 13 months – last Thursday in Minnesota. He’s finally healthy after the craziest year of his career, and now he can’t get to the rink to even practice.
Kaleta is the only Sabres player who lives in the Southtowns and he’s been stuck in his Hamburg home since the region was battered by snow on Tuesday. He missed Tuesday’s game against San Jose and Thursday’s practice, both at First Niagara Center. And he has no idea if he’ll make it to today’s practice or the flight later this afternoon for Saturday’s game in Washington.
Had tonight’s game against the New York Rangers been played as scheduled, Kaleta almost certainly would have missed that one too. The rest of the players live either downtown or in the Northtowns and have been unaffected by the storm.
Since October 2013, Kaleta has endured a 10-game NHL suspension, a trip to the waiver wire, an assignment to Rochester, a season-ending knee injury and a severe facial injury in September when struck by a puck during an exhibition game.
And now, Mother Nature’s wrath.
“I definitely sympathize for people living in the Southtowns,” Kaleta told The News by phone from his house late Thursday afternoon. “I’m like all the rest of them. I wish I could help more. I remember going to hockey practices when I was a kid and my dad and mom would get me through some deep stuff. I never remember anything remotely close to something like this.”
Kaleta said it was tough watching Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Sharks on television.
“It’s was horrible, just horrible,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than not being able to get in there with your teammates, especially with my past year. I’ve had to sit and watch for a long time. It’s not something I enjoy and it’s aggravating to not be able to get there. The coaches have been awesome about caring about the guys not able to go there.
“It is what it is. There’s nothing I can do about this but I’m definitely raring to get back to the rink.”
While Kaleta, 28, is the only player stuck by the storm, members of the team’s front office, training, equipment and public relations staffs have also been missing.
Kaleta and his fiancee, Ashley Cook, have been holed up in the house since the storm hit and he estimates they have 5-6 feet of snow outside. Fortunately, she went grocery shopping on Monday so there is plenty of food. The power has been flickering but the house is hooked up to a generator and the fireplace is also on.
Kaleta said he walked to a couple of gas stations to get fuel for a neighbor’s snow blower and the neighbor got a dinner invitation for getting Kaleta’s driveway cleared – except the driveway is covered again.
There was no way, of course, for Kaleta to get to practice. He’s been in contact with Hamburg police about the driving ban there and has been told there’s no route for him to get downtown. He has no idea what today might bring.
“As of right now, I’m playing it by ear,” he said. “It’s really, really bad right now. Hopefully the snow will shift. Whether it takes all night or whatever we need to do, we’re going to try to clear the driveway. I’m sure I’ll be in contact with the Sabres and the police officers here to see if I can get to the arena .
“Whatever is possible, that’s what I’m going to do for sure. You know me, I don’t like sitting around and watching. I get a little crazy.”
Kaleta said he’s like everyone else in his native region – feeling stir-crazy but understanding patience is what’s needed.
“This is one of those times you have to listen to the news media, you have to listen to the government authorities, the police. They’re giving you information to keep you safe,” Kaleta said. “That’s what they have in mind even if it’s things you don’t want to do, like staying home when you want to be somewhere. People’s roofs are in danger. People have died. You have to be safe.”