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Krueger staying ready, sharing knowledge during suspension of play

Sabres coach will host international coaching webinar

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Ralph Krueger and his fellow members of the Buffalo Sabres were attending a team dinner in Montreal when they learned about the positive test for COVID-19 in the NBA that would send shockwaves through the sports world. 

That was March 11. The game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed just prior to tipoff when it was learned that Utah's Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the virus, prompting the NBA to suspend its regular season later that night. 

The Sabres were scheduled to play the Canadiens the following evening. 

"Everything kind of started unraveling from there," Krueger said Monday during a conference call with reporters. "We weren't sure where that would take us. We began the gameday in Montreal as if we were going to play.

"The coaches headed to the arena and actually just about when we got to the arena, we heard we needed to return to the hotel. [General manager] Jason Botterill spoke to the team and we found out the reality of our situation. And it was shocking at the time."

The NHL suspended its regular season that afternoon, and the Sabres were back in Buffalo by the end of the day. Since then, Krueger has returned to Switzerland (where he is a citizen) to be with his family. 

Like most, he's practicing recommended social distancing measures while staying ready for a potential return to normalcy, whenever that may be. Players have been instructed to stay physically fit at home. Coaches are prepared to run minicamps should the league resume play. 

Once the virus is slowed, Krueger believes sports will be an important player in the world's return to normalcy. The question is when. In the meantime, Krueger will share his knowledge as host of an international webinar with some 400 coaches from throughout Europe. 

"Right now, for me, it's all about taking care of your family, your friends, making sure the people of Buffalo - our fan base - are OK and doing the right things and for the world beyond, this challenge gets mastered before it creates and causes more damage," he said.

"Sports will be very important out the other end of this, I know that. We just have to be ready when that call comes, that we do our part to get the world in motion in the right direction again."

The Sabres had 13 games remaining when the season was suspended. Though the playoffs had slipped virtually out of reach through a series of close losses during a four-game Western Conference road trip, Krueger felt no quit in his players and was looking forward to utilizing those contests as a period of growth.

He's still holding onto hope that the Sabres can finish their season, eventually. Until then, it's about doing the right thing for the greater good. 

"I think we're all going through a withdrawal," he said. "But the health of the world and the health of the people we all care about that are dear to us is certainly taken a priority in a shape, way and form that we have never seen in our lifetimes. 

"It's got to be a focus on that right now and that's got to dominate. The predominant pain that I would be feeling right now is for all the people suffering around the planet and all the people in fear. You can only hope that we as a group of people around the planet can get together and solve this. And hockey just does take a secondary position at the moment here until we get this cleaned up."

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