Q&A: David Rittich on self-isolating in Czech Republic, missing teammates

Watch as David Rittich recovers to make a huge glove save on Andreas Johnsson.

Despite being eight time zones and almost 8,000 km away from Calgary, David Rittich has been keeping loose tabs on his teammates.

He’s part of the team’s text string, has seen the TikTok videos his teammates have been dancing in, and is acutely aware of the ribbing he took from Mark Giordano, who labelled the Flames goalie as the player he’d least like to quarantine with.

Yet, the most notorious joker in the Flames organization has no plans for a choreographed response anytime soon.

“I saw on TikTok what Chucky (Matthew Tkachuk) did, and what Johnny (Gaudreau) did with his sister and his girlfriend,” said Rittich from his home in Jihlava, Czech Republic.

“But I don’t really have time right now because I’m working everyday on the house. If someone wants to see my work on TikTok I can show them what I’m doing on my garden.”

Point taken.

Rittich was one of a handful of Flames who scrambled back to Europe last month before international flights were scrapped, giving him and his wife valuable time to outfit and decorate their new house.

Sportsnet caught up with the personable netminder to get his thoughts on wearing gloves and a mask in public, who he misses the most, why he returned to Europe and how his injured elbow is doing:

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Sportsnet: What is it like in your area of the Czech Republic, in terms of shutdowns and government orders?

David Rittich: We are allowed to leave the house and go to the store for food and water.

But you have to wear a mask and gloves when you go to the shop.

I’m not going very often – maybe once or twice a week for food. I stay home to be safe and do social distancing, which is important.

SN: You wear gloves and a mask for a living – I assume you are comfortable wearing them in public.

DR: You have to wear the mask, but doctor’s gloves are optional. For me and my wife, we’d rather stay safe and wear them because you don’t know who touched the things before you. We have to bring our own masks. I got some from Calgary.

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.

SN: Why did you decide to fly back to your home in the Czech Republic?

DR: Obviously it was a tough decision to make, but I kind of felt it doesn’t matter where you’re going to be locked in, in Calgary or the Czech. So we made a decision to go to the Czech and I’m kind of enjoying this time because we got a new house and we have time to get things settled and buy new stuff for us. When we came back, my wife had jet lag, so she woke up at 2 a.m. and got on the internet and bought it all.

I kind of enjoy (furnishing the house). If you want to live in your house you want things to be ready and look nice. We built it last year and spent three weeks in it before we flew to Calgary.

It’s in my hometown — a little town but I’ve got my gym stuff that my buddy brought me, so I’m working out.

SN: I understand you were nursing an injury before the season was halted.

DR: It was my elbow, but it was nothing to make problems with my game or my practice or workouts. Just a little sore — it was nothing crazy. It was a small thing for a couple of weeks. It was up and down. It was one day really good and one day really sore. We figured it out with the doctor.

SN: As a notorious trash talker in your dressing room, I’m curious what your reaction was to Giordano’s playful suggestion your pop intake would make you someone he wouldn’t want to quarantine with.

DR: I heard Gio say that. I don’t know what’s wrong with this guy. I’m not drinking that. A lot of guys see me a lot of times before the game — that was the only time I would drink Coke or Pepsi during the year. They’re still living in the past.

SN: Tkachuk said he would love to quarantine with you because you’d constantly crack him up.

DR: Finally, one good thing.

SN: Can I assume you brought Alvin, your beagle home with you?

DR: It was actually the hardest thing to do because we always fly with KLM and they’re not allowed to take animals on the plane. So we had to figure out which company we can fly on. In this crazy time to get on the line with someone who works for that company, it’s pretty hard. I had to stay on the line for one-and-a-half hours.

I remember when I bought a ticket for me and my wife I spent seven hours on the phone to get things done. Honestly, it was just about a dog. To put him under my name on the plane I spent seven hours on the phone. I was mentally tired.

SN: Do you think you guys will finish this season?

DR: Obviously it’s a hard question you don’t really know what’s going to happen, and what the government is going to do, and how the future is going to look. I’m preparing myself to play, but it’s hard to see right now because if we are looking at the situation in the USA and Canada the (COVID-19) numbers are going a little higher too.

The numbers in the U.S. are really high. I don’t really see flying between the U.S. and Canada right now.

Honestly, it’s not a question for players right now. It’s the U.S. President and the guys who can make the decision right now. Hopefully, everyone stays healthy and safe right now, and that’s the most important thing.

SN: Are you still hopeful the season will be concluded?

DR: Obviously, because the economy is bad because of the Coronavirus, and everyone wants to get the economy and everything back. And I don’t really like to end the season like that, especially because we’re in the playoffs and we’ve been playing pretty well.

I love my team and my teammates and I’d like to see them pretty soon and having fun in the locker room and practicing with them. That’s what I’m missing the most – the guys in the locker room.

Well, a couple of guys. Gio is one of them, the little old guy.

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