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Calgary Flames dads adjust to life away from family

‘Thank God for FaceTime’: Calgary Flames dads adjust to life away from family
WATCH ABOVE: While NHLers are used to gruelling road trips, life in the bubble will be particularly difficult for a handful of Calgary Flames. As Cami Kepke reports, the hardest thing for this group to leave behind isn't the comfort of home -- it's their children.

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.

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“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.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Calgary Flames prepare for life in the NHL bubble

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.

“The older one understands I’m playing hockey right now, but for sure it’s up to me that I talk to them over the FaceTime as much as I can,” defenceman Erik Gustafsson said. “But the eight hours [time difference] is kind of difficult. I get lucky if I get two calls in a day.”

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“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.

Read more: Calgary Flames’ Hamonic becomes 1st NHL player to opt out of league’s plan to play during pandemic

Those entering the bubble hope that one day their kids will understand the magnitude of what they’re chasing.

“My two daughters are seven and five, so especially my oldest daughter, she understands what’s going on,” forward Milan Lucic said. “I’ve shown pict… [them] pictures and highlights and all that type of stuff of me winning a Stanley Cup in 2011.

“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.”

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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.”