Brad Treliving started his media availability by adding the proper perspective to his ensuing hockey talk. He knows, as do we all, where the game and its multi-billion dollar industry rank in people’s minds these days.
Near the bottom.
With that, he wanted to extend his thoughts and best wishes to ailing Oiler Colby Cave and his family. He gave pause to remember the second anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, before thanking the front-line medical personnel endeavouring to protect the world from COVID-19.
He knows that whenever hockey returns, it will do so as part of a new normal that will make it even harder to sell tickets in a local economy already decimated by the oil war being lost in Alberta.
“Talking about some of the things we’re talking about seems irrelevant when people are going through what they’re going through,” said Treliving.
“You have to be cognizant of what the world is going to look like when we get through this. What we’re doing is way down on the list of important things.”
He cited the fact that his two daughters are too young to know what travelling was like before 9/11, when you essentially breezed through airport security. But we adjust.
What lies ahead for us all is the unknown.
It’s with that the Flames GM touched on a handful of issues surrounding the team, unsure when or if several of his files will end up being a waste of time.
The top of his list of daily duties is to stay on top of news as it relates to the increasingly unlikely event this season can ultimately be played to its conclusion this summer.
Reports that Major League Baseball is considering neutral-site games in empty stadiums, as is the NHL, are intriguing, if not premature given that the novel coronavirus is still increasing its assault on the world.
“When you see things like that, it certainly gives you optimism people are coming up with ideas,” said Treliving, who pointed out it’s not lost on him that Wednesday would have been the start of the playoffs.
“We’re all looking for good news. We’ve got to take our appropriate place and place the importance of our games in the appropriate spectrum. It’s way down on the list. The overwhelming thought is there’s hope. The league is looking at everything and there are no bad ideas right now. At some point you may run out of time, but we’re not there yet. At some point somebody may tell us that’s not going to happen. You have to look at it at almost monthly and see at the end of April where we’re at globally.”
He’s thankful none of his players, who are scattered across North America and Europe, have contracted the virus. That said, none of them have been tested, as have the eight NHLers who have tested positive.
He dreams of the day they’ll reconvene, and hopes it’s this summer so a final chapter can be written on his team’s crazy season.
“You’re really excited to see what this team can do,” he said.
“I thought we went through a lot of adversity this year, and in a lot of ways that hardened us, and I was really excited for the stretch drive and what would happen in the playoffs.”
One cause for optimism has been the rehabilitation of Juuso Valimaki, who is the only Flames player who has permission to skate right now, by virtue of his rehabilitation protocol. His knee has responded well, to the point there’s hope he could join the team if there is a summer playoff.
“I guess the answer would be maybe,” Treliving said, adding that the team’s focus is the first-rounder’s long-term recovery, meaning no shortcuts will be made short-term.
Treliving’s three main files include preparing for the draft, planning for a possible return this summer, and preparing for next season.
He said the team will continue to pursue college and junior players ready to turn pro, as he did last week when they signed Connor Mackey and Colton Poolman.
He’s stayed in touch with all his players, as well as agents of pending free agents he’d like to try to re-sign.
Alas, he’s quick to point out, deals are hard to contemplate without knowing what the salary cap will be next year. Thus, no headway can be made on trying to re-up players like Travis Hamonic or TJ Brodie.
And so, like the rest of us, he bides some of his time watching the classics on Sportsnet.
“I’ve watched a lot of Kelly Hrudey games,” he chuckled, adding that he simply couldn’t stomach Tiger King, which his daughters implored him to watch.
“I can’t believe he wore those pads. Some of the games are just awesome. What in the hell was a penalty back then? Just the manslaughter that took place on every shift.”
It’s the type of hockey talk he can’t wait to return to on a daily basis.
When it’s appropriate to do so.