Canadiens’ Phillip Danault against leaving family to finish season

Montreal Canadiens centre Phillip Danault (24) says he doesn't support a plan that could see players separated from their families to finish the NHL season. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

MONTREAL — It was in the sixth minute of a conference call held with reporters Tuesday that you could hear Phillip Danault’s 14-month son yelling in the background right as he was in the midst of being asked a question about the possibility of resuming this NHL season in remote locations and locked away from family for an extended period of time.

Danault, as straight a shooter as you’ll find in the NHL, didn’t mince his words about that idea.

“It really makes no sense, in my head, to distance myself for two months from my kid,” Danault said in French. “And I imagine it makes even less sense for those who would go far in the playoffs, who are on playoff teams right now. If a team goes to the Stanley Cup Final, it could be three to four months. It’s inhumane to do that, as far as I’m concerned. But the league has to make a decision and I imagine the players will have to vote on it, and I’m not sure they’ll be in favour of being away from family for two-to-three months.”

When asked for his recommendation on how the NHL should proceed on breaking the COVID-19 pause to resume its season, Danault suggested it be done without the Canadiens, who are currently 10 points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot with 11 games remaining.

“If the league wants to play, I’d suggest just playing the playoffs,” he said. “Once we get back, games leftover for teams not in the playoffs is not too motivating. Having two-to-three months of whatever… that would be pretty difficult.

“I’d rather just concentrate on next season. I understand there’s teams in the playoffs, teams that made big moves and traded first-round picks; I understand their desire to finish the season. But I find there are things that are maybe more important in the world at this instant than hockey games.”

It was just last Thursday that Danault’s linemate, Brendan Gallagher, said Canadiens players have remained in close contact with each other and are all on the same page about a possible season resumption.

“For us right now, it always comes back to the same thing — it’s about winning. And if it’s going to interfere with our ability to prepare for next year where we have a chance, I’d rather continue my training and continue to do all that,” Gallagher said during a conference call with Canadiens reporters. “If it’s a situation where maybe you see these scenarios where you have a chance to play and they expand the playoff bracket, obviously you’re going to be all for it.”

But barring that possibility, it appears Canadiens players have no interest in playing out the string of a lost season.

Montreal forward Dale Weise appeared on Sportsnet 650’s Reach Deep show last Friday and also poured cold water on a season resumption for non-playoff teams.

“For the guys on the outside, you’re gonna cut your training in half in the summer, you’re gonna come back, you’re not in real good shape, you’re gonna risk injury in training camp to come play 11 games when we know we’re not getting in the playoffs?” Weise said.

Richard Deitsch and Donnovan Bennett host a podcast about how COVID-19 is impacting sports around the world. They talk to experts, athletes and personalities, offering a window into the lives of people we normally root for in entirely different ways.

It’s a concern that Danault shares.

The 27-year-old centre added that the uncertainty of the situation has already thrown a wrench into his training plans.

What Danault would like to see is the NHL come up with a drop-dead date for a decision on whether or not to resume the season.

“It’s the biggest reason my summer training hasn’t started at 100 per cent,” he said. “It’s because there’s no date from the league. It’s not as motivating, and we don’t really know where we’re heading with all this. So I’m just waiting for the green light to get on with my summer training, or for the season to end.”

When asked about whether or not he believes the NHLPA will agree to a plan that sees the season resume in various hub cities and with players quarantined away from their families for months at a time, Danault said he doesn’t.

“It’s a difficult decision for the league and the players,” he said. “Some players could be away from their families 3-4 months, which I think is way too much. And I’m not the only one thinking like that, I’m sure. So it’s going to be a big decision for the rest of the season.”

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