Winnipeg Jets’ goal-scoring leader Kyle Connor was the latest member of the team this week to field questions from the media via a video conference call.
The fourth-year forward was at his summer home in Michigan and was asked to recall the evening of March 11 in Edmonton — the last game the Jets played prior to the NHL suspending the season as a result of the novel coronavirus.
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“It was a weird time — everything happened so fast,” Connor said about that night.
“I mean, the first period went by and that’s when everything started escalating. I found out from one of our trainers and a couple of teammates. Everybody in the locker room was pretty aware of what was going on with the NBA. We kinda knew it was going to be shutdown, and we still had two periods to play.”
Connor would go on to score his 37th and 38th goals of the season in the Jets come-from-behind 4-2 victory and was named the game’s second star. At the time of “the pause”, the 23-year-old Michigan native had also set a career-high 35 assists and was tied with linemate Mark Scheifele for the team scoring lead with 73 points in 71 games.
Connor, who has been playing tennis and rollerblading in “the neighbourhood” to try and keep busy, is adamant the players will need to be given adequate time to “reset” if and when the NHL is able to resume the schedule.
“That’s something the NHLPA and NHL and the owners have to come together on,” Connor said.
“You almost need a mini training camp. I don’t think anybody’s skating at this point, and to be off the ice for that long, you don’t just jump into a season. We’re definitely going to talk about it.”
According to Connor, there are conversations taking place about finishing the season.
And the highly skilled 6-foot, 1-inch, 182-pound left-winger is in the camp of avoiding an “accelerated” post-season format and sticking with a best-of-seven series.
“The type of games you get on that- more times than not the best team will win,” Connor said.
“Having one game, it’s a lot more pressure and every single play is amplified that much more. But at this point, I’d just be happy to see hockey. So however they do it, I hope they finish the season.”
There has been speculation the NHL would be willing to play well into August to crown a Stanley Cup champion.
Connor says the last time he strapped on the blades for summer hockey was when he was in his mid-teens and trying to get noticed at USA Hockey Select Festivals.
“June or July they would always hold those,” Connor said. “You’d go out to New York and they had camps out there. It was always weird because the season would end and you’d have one or two months to prepare and train. Summer Hockey is always a bit different too.”
What will also be different is how the 2020 NHL entry draft will play out — likely being conducted online.
Connor feels empathy for his year’s class.
“Looking back, it’s such a cool experience to have that with family and friends,” said the Jets’ first-round pick, 17th overall in 2015.
“We were out in Fort Lauderdale for my draft and got to celebrate it down there. It’s something I’ll always remember forever so you feel for those guys. It looks like across the board, all the leagues are leaning towards that and it just needs to be done at this point.”
And has been the case in all these video conference calls, they end with a salute to the heroes battling in the corners so to speak, to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’ve been just so important, everybody, in keeping us safe. We want to say thank you to everybody who is out on the front lines and making it safe for us to enjoy life. Keep doing your work because it’s making a difference.”