You could hear the relief in Jack Eichel’s voice, and you could see it on his face as he discussed how content he was that his mother, a Boston-area nurse, was on paid leave from duty at the hospital in order to take care of his father who had a shoulder replacement surgery just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting North America and affecting all our lives in such a profound and unprecedented way.
“The hospital (Boston Medical Center) is in a lot of distress right now, and it’s a tough position,” the 23-year-old captain of the Buffalo Sabres said Monday. “She’s actually been at home for the last few weeks, which somehow is really lucky. Wouldn’t want her going in. It’s such a high risk.”
“Credit to all the medical professionals that have been on the front lines and have been really taking this thing head-on,” Eichel added. “But when you have a loved one in that situation, you just want them to be as safe as possible.”
All four Atlantic Division rivals, who are usually at odds with each other, were largely in agreement throughout the 34-minute Zoom Media conference that was moderated by the NHL and coordinated and scheduled with the help of the NHLPA. For instance, when they were asked about what they don’t miss about playing against each other, Barkov and Eichel talked about facing Weber’s slapshot, with Hedman adding, “I get out of the way, let the goalie see the puck and you can blame him if he lets it in.”
Hedman said he and his wife are still in Tampa Bay and that they’re spending their days with their three dogs. He also said he’s staying in shape thanks to some equipment he stole from the Lightning’s training facilities, and that he’s enjoying watching Stephen King’s The Outsiders and keeping up to date with Showtime’s “Homeland.”
Eichel’s still in Buffalo and grateful to his girlfriend for cooking meals and “taking care of the house.” He bemoaned the weather not quite being what Barkov and Hedman get to enjoy in Florida, but added he still gets to go outside here and there when he’s not busy playing Madden NFL 20, watching reruns of “The OC,” or listening to his Stone Temple Pilots, Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye and Fleetwood Mac albums.
Barkov, who has his mother living with him in Boca Raton, said he hasn’t turned on his TV to do anything but play Call of Duty with friends and teammates.
Life’s been a bit different for the 34-year-old Weber.
“I’m here in Montreal with my family,” he said. “I’ve got three kids, so needless to say I’ve been pretty busy. Busy with them—a little schoolwork, and then trying to keep them from killing each other during the day and trying to plan activities and whatnot. Definitely busy in a different way.”
Would anyone be shocked to learn that Weber, famously nicknamed “Man Mountain” by former Team Canada coach Mike Babcock, is “big into (Netflix’s) Vikings?”
The Sicamous B.C., native also said he’s five episodes into Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
All four players had varying opinions on a potential 31-team tournament to win the 2020 Stanley Cup. Barkov said a tournament of some kind could be “a best-case scenario,” while Weber said, “Obviously that guarantees us a spot in the playoffs, but I don’t think that’s fair to teams in there first.”
He then reiterated that the main concern right now goes well beyond hockey and the Cup.
Hedman was also the first to suggest “it would be tough to jump straight into playoffs,” if (and hopefully when) the 2019-20 NHL season resumes.
And after Barkov echoed those thoughts, Weber said, “I think anyone that’s going to be involved in the playoffs needs some sort of build-up or some sort of training camp to get them ready, because this is going to be quite an extended period of time off.”
Eichel, who agreed with those sentiments, was the only one to acknowledge the reality all hockey fans and people associated with the game are currently grappling with.
“We really don’t know what tomorrow holds, never mind a month from now,” he said. “So it’s tough to predict the hockey aspect of life. …It would be tough to say the league knows what we’re going to do, because I don’t really think the world knows what’s going to happen in a few weeks.”
And so, just like the rest of us, the players are keeping themselves busy in quarantine for the time being.
The players sent best wishes to fans in their respective cities, with Barkov adding a message in Finnish for fans back home and Hedman doing the same in Swedish.
Weber’s message started and ended in a foreign language, as well.
“Just wanted to say, ‘Merci!’ And thank you guys for all your support and sticking with us through these tough times,” he said. “It’s not easy for anyone, and it’s not easy for us, yourselves.
“(To) the people in Nashville—tough times for you, (with) the tornados right before this. And hopefully, you guys stay strong with this virus coming next. I know you will, and I know it’s a good city and you guys are strong together.”
To fans in Montreal, Weber added, “We’re looking forward to getting (back in front) of you guys at the Bell Centre. Merci beaucoup et restez prudent (stay safe).”