When the coronavirus forced the NHL to hit pause on its regular season back in March, it was a silver lining for players with children, as they took advantage of months of unexpected family time.
As the Calgary Flames prepare to enter the Edmonton bubble on Sunday, the dads on the team say the hardest thing to leave behind isn’t the comfort of home, it’s their children.
“The hardest day was leaving my house in Sweden,” forward Mikael Backlund said. “Thankfully Tillie (his daughter) doesn’t understand that I was leaving. She just wants to keep playing and didn’t understand why I was upset.”
Nearly a dozen players on Calgary’s roster are current or expectant fathers.
After a few weeks apart, the players have found themselves juggling time changes and practices as they keep in touch online.
“It’s just kind of trying to stick to a routine,” goaltender Cam Talbot added. “You call them every night, when they’re brushing their teeth or going to bed, read books and stuff like that.”
Veteran blueliner and father-of-two Travis Hamonic opted out of the return-to-play plan for family reasons and opened up about a scary incident where his young daughter spent a week in hospital with a respiratory virus last year.
Those entering the bubble hope that one day their kids will understand the magnitude of what they’re chasing.
“I explained — especially to my daughters — this is what, you know, I’m going to try to do again. Wouldn’t it be so cool if we got to have our day with it (the Stanley Cup) with the family? The girls really got excited.”
If all goes well, NHLers’ significant others and children could be allowed to enter the NHL bubble during the conference finals and Stanley Cup finals, which will likely happen in early fall.
“We’re all sacrificing something to be here,” Backlund said. “We are doing it by hoping to raise a cup and it’s why it’s worth doing it.”