Winnipeg Jets centre Mark Scheifele says he was raised by his parents to be a forgiving person, even though there have been times when he has held a grudge.
But the hit that Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk delivered on him early in the first period of Game One of the qualifying round on Aug. 1 in Edmonton does not fall into that latter category.
At least that was the message from Scheifele during an end of the season media Zoom call on Tuesday.
Scheifele says Tkachuk reached out to him after the game and says the unfortunate play happened because the Flames player was out of control. And Scheifele says that was good enough for him.
“Someone is on the ice, trying to get someone with their skate — I don’t think Matt was trying to do that,” is how Scheifele saw it. “The way I looked at it is I was trying to turn up at the last second and it was kind of a knee on knee type scenario.”
Scheifele says he initially thought the injury was going to be something like a torn achilles that would sideline him for six months, and was extremely relieved when that did not turn out to be the case.
“I was in a dark place, it was only about five minutes before I found out it was nothing to do with my achilles,” he said. “I was lucky to get some answers.”
Scheifele would not reveal the nature of the injury “because I don’t have to,”he said. But in a later conference call with media, his roommate, Andrew Copp, said, “I don’t think Tkachuk went in with the intention of trying to break Mark’s ankle or anything like that.”
Regardless, the Jets #1 centre is confident he’ll be ready when training camp opens in mid-November. But Scheifele obviously wanted the post season he helped negotiate to last longer than it did.
“It sucked to be done after three shifts. There were definitely some times when I was pretty down on myself, to work that hard. That’s kinda the person I am. I tried to look at it positively,” said Scheifele.
“I didn’t go through the training and skating because I had to. I did it because I want to and I want to play hockey. That’s what I enjoy doing.”
And there was no self-pity from Winnipeg’s #55 that the work he put in as part of the Return to Play Committee didn’t benefit him much on a personal level.
“In terms of me not getting to play, that’s kinda the way it is,” summed up Scheifele rather philosophically. “That was my duty that I did it for the NHLPA and the NHL to get the game back and running.
“Obviously I’m very happy that hockey’s back on and that I even got to play three shifts rather than there not being playoffs — that’s the lucky part.”
And Scheifele says he was incredibly impressed — and grateful — for how well things went and continue to go in the bubbles at Toronto and Edmonton.
“I’d like to thank the NHLPA — every single person that put in the work to make that happen,” Scheifele said.
“I tried to thank as many people in the bubble as i could because what they did was so amazing in being able to get it logistically all working out so perfect.”
Scheifele says the variety of food, a lounge for the team to gather in, and even a courtyard in front of the hotel where players could shoot basketball, watch games on the big screen, or just hang out to escape their rooms for a few hours all made for an enjoyable experience.
But Scheifele admits it will be a test for the teams that go the distance.
“Obviously when you go to the end, it’s a long time being in that bubble,” said Scheifele. “But when you’re fighting for a Stanley Cup, there’s no better reason in the world for being in that bubble.”
And Scheifele plans on keeping a close eye on the tournament on a daily and nightly basis.
“First and foremost is for enjoyment and just to watch it and see these teams battle in such a weird circumstance.” he said.
But the Jets centre says some advice he received from another former Winnipeg great during his first OHL season in Barrie has stuck with him for more than a decade.
“Dale Hawerchuk told me watching the NHL is an education,” he said. “It’s a school class on its own. You can learn from the best players in the world every single day.”
And that’s what Scheifele will continue to do over the next seven weeks or so.
“You watch any game and you see the star players and certain things that they do and something might pop out to me and I’ll think about it when I get back on the ice with a stick in my hands.”
For sure, the Jets will look a lot different when they re-assemble in the fall. Centre Cody Eakin, defenceman Dylan DeMelo and backup goalie Laurent Brossoit are among 11 unrestricted free agents while GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has another four restricted free agents to find salary cap space for in Jack Roslovic, Jansen Harkins, Mason Appleton and Sami Niku.
“We just gotta hope guys come back bigger, faster, stronger and able to step into bigger roles,” says Scheifele.
“Hopefully in free agency we can get some good pieces as well. If I was the GM I’d give you some more answers, but I’m not.”
One thing Mark Scheifele doesn’t shy away from is sharing his passion for the game. So there was zero hesitation when he was asked to peer into his crystal ball to make a prediction on the 2020 playoffs. And he likes what Philadelphia brings to the table.
“Obviously every team is trying to find their stride, but I like their game, they played solid” he said. “With Carter Hart in net, I think they’re going to be tough to beat. They have a lot of depth up front, they do everything. I think their back end is very under rated for how good they are.”
And just before the session was adjourned, Scheifele offered up his darkhorse pick, the Vancouver Canucks.
“When we played them, they looked like they had a little bit of rust on them. And even their first game against Minnesota you could see that rust was still there. And then it’s almost like they’re starting to find their rhythm.
“I think that’s the biggest thing about this tournament. When you don’t do anything for four months, there’s going to be weird things that happen.”