Right as the NHL season was heading into its final stretch, everything came screeching to a halt. The coronavirus pandemic has now put the rest of the year on hold and left the hockey world in a state of uncertainty.
It’s extremely frustrating for the athletes, many of whom were either gearing up for the playoffs or already in the midst of an intense playoff push, but it’s also hard on the coaches. With around a dozen unfinished regular-season games hanging unsettlingly over their heads, their players are being forced to stay at home and away from the rink. No one is sure how, or when, things will ultimately play out.
Rod Brind’Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes, Rick Tocchet of the Arizona Coyotes and Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues are three coaches with a lot still on the line this season. In a video call with reporters on Friday, they shared how they’ve been spending their time in lockdown.
“Myself and our GM, John Chayka, we’ve had player calls,” Tocchet said. “So we’ve had 15-20 minutes per guy talking. It’s weird, and Roddy [Brind’Amour] and Chief [Berube] know this, it’s not exit meetings because I still believe that we’re going to play in the next couple months and I’m trying to be optimistic, but I think it’s important that you stay connected with a team.”
Brind’Amour has had a different mindset.
“Our management owners kind of right away told us this was gonna be more long-term,” he said. “So we kind of looked at it as our offseason. So we’re kind of preparing actually for the draft a little bit, looking at stuff like that. We’ve definitely had some communication with our players but more from the strength coach perspective, he’s talking daily to those guys because they’re dispersed all over, and to be honest, a lot of guys don’t have access to this stuff. Some guys have great gyms in their house, other guys have nothing.”
Berube is expecting his players to stay in shape if the season does end up resuming.
“Hopefully we do get going again here at some point,” Berube added. “Our guys have got to be in decent enough shape to come back and they’re ready to go quickly because you’re not going to have a whole lot of time preparing for this. But from a system standpoint or coaching, I don’t believe there’s a whole lot of changes to be made. You’re going to start, you’re going to get prepared, like a training camp type of thing, it’s going to be shorter and then you get playing again.”
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Tocchet has even picked up a new activity to keep him active during the lockdown: rollerblading.
“I’ve always been a choppy skater, boys. You guys know that,” he said. “I was there in the garage and I said I was going to start rollerblading, so I guess every other day I’ve been rollerblading. It’s actually pretty cool and you get a good leg burn.”
However, he did have a bit of a mishap while enjoying his new hobby.
“I got a little cocky,” he said. “I hit a little pothole and went down hard. I’m not going to lie to you, it still hurts. I got a big raspberry on the butt and down the leg… Actually a car stopped, a nice person stopped and asked me if I was okay, and that was nice of them. But yeah, I’m okay.”
The three coaches sent their well-wishes to fans and say they’re looking forward to when hockey finally returns.
“It’s bigger than hockey,” Berube said. “It’s bigger than all sports… The most important thing Is to fix this, get healthy and stay safe. Hopefully, we can get back to playing. We all miss it.”
“Just to the fans, I’ll be honest, I missed the fans.,” Tocchet added. “It’s not so much even the great fans of the Coyotes, but it’s going into Carolina, the Caniacs, and seeing how loud they are, or going to play St. Louis and that stupid bell goes off every time they score a goal. I miss that stuff. I won’t take that stuff for granted.”
Brind’Amour gave a special thank you to the medical workers during the crisis.
“It shouldn’t take a crisis like this, but to kind of realize how important certain people are in the world,” he said. “You know, our medical staff, just a real shout out to them to all their what they’re doing… Hopefully, we’ll get this behind us as soon as we all do our part. That’s the key. So stay safe everyone and let’s get hockey back soon.”
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