When Ryan Schmelzer was told the AHL season was put on hold, he had three quick thoughts.
Pack. Drive. Get home ASAP.
The East Amherst native had just moved in with his girlfriend in Fort Erie, ON, a 10-minute drive from downtown Buffalo but 200 miles from his locker room in Binghamton.
"I knew there was talk of the border being closed down," he says, arriving in Canada less than 24 hours after it was closed off. "I packed my things as fast as I could, we had to go to the rink, get our gear, grab everything there, and hightail it home as quick as you can."
The East Amherst product is playing in his second season with the AHL's Binghamton Devils after a four-year career at Canisius. Schmelzer says he was starting to come into his own before the season was suspended. The reigning AHL Player of the Week was enjoying a career-best five-game point streak.
"Everything was clicking. Linemates were playing really well, the team was playing fantastic. We were hot as you can be. That’s a big part of why I was playing well. Definitely frustrating that it all, so far, has come to an end the way it did."
His new home includes a few creature comforts (such as Shady, his fluffy cockapoo), but lacks access to a proper weightroom and ice rink.
"I'm trying to get any type of workout equipment I can get," he says. "Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, you gotta start getting creative. Before I was using propane tanks, water cases, and paint cans as weight. Luckily, I’ve been able to gather some weights here."
Schmelzer is playing on a one-year, AHL contract - if the season doesn't resume, he will immediately become a free agent.
"It’s definitely hard not to think about what will happen later in the summer, but I can only control what I can control," he says.
Along with a homemade weight set, Schmelzer is keeping in shape thanks to virtual yoga. He says the Devils host biweekly classes, helping to keep him flexible and stave off cabin fever.