In his 11th year as an NHLer, John Tavares grasps the importance of each spring that passes without a deep playoff run. You only get so many chances.
Yet even as the COVID-19 pandemic puts another shot at realizing his Stanley Cup dreams in jeopardy, Tavares has taken a Zen approach to the indefinite pause on league action and life as we used to know it.
The Toronto Maple Leafs captain has savoured the unexpected extra time he’s had to help his wife Aryne care for their six-month-old baby, Jace, reading books on parenthood and opting for Nexflix’s new Babies docuseries over Tiger King — a “mindboggling” show Aryne has been streaming.
“Enjoying time with my son. Having that time with him has been fantastic,” Tavares said Monday, on an NHL-run Zoom conference Monday alongside Brady Tkachuk, Dylan Larkin and Zdeno Chara. (Tavares joked that the only reason he joined the call was to steal training tips from Chara.)
Tavares has poured time into his passion for cooking, and weather in his High Park neighbourhood on the west side of Toronto has been warm enough to fire up the barbecue.
Yes, he’s been keeping fit with the training equipment he keeps at his house — a few dumbbells and kettle bells, some resistance bands, and a bicycle — but with a return to action more likely months than weeks in the future, there will be plenty time to ramp back up into game shape.
“I think with the uncertainty, it’s a good time to kind of disconnect and relax as well,” Tavares, 29, explained. “We are fortunate with in the world we do live in, in terms of the social aspect and technology and the ability to stay in touch and communicate with loved ones.”
This week, Tavares’s thoughts are with New York, his home for nine years. A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrived Monday in New York City as the number of deaths in the state from the outbreak has climbed above 1,200.
Tavares made a point to send well wishes to Islanders fans, staff and former teammates who are quarantined in a much more dangerous city.
“I know a few people that are really right in the fire of it and seeing kind of how it’s spreading and really making the impact that it is in New York,” Tavares said.
“I really hope everyone there is staying safe and following all the health recommendations, doing everything they can to stay healthy and to slow the spread and help all the people that are on the front line doing everything they can to keep everyone safe and taking a lot of risk themselves.”
— John Tavares (@91Tavares) March 25, 2020
It should go without saying that squeezing in more hockey playoffs falls a distant second to a world on alert. Tavares will be 30 when 2020-21 kicks off, and at the time of the pause, his Leafs were on a collision course for what could be an enticing Round 1 series versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“In Toronto, we certainly miss playing in front of our fans and going to Scotiabank Arena and competing to play in the playoffs and the opportunity that we had in front of us,” Tavares said.
“It’s a real special thing to be a Maple Leaf — and we never take that for granted and certainly miss it — but more importantly for everyone to stay safe and healthy and continue to follow all the recommendations from the experts and from the local authorities.
“From what I’ve seen, people have been really good in my area understanding that. We’re all here to support each other, help each other and do the best we can to get this back to normal as quickly as possible.”