In a year when many people have learned new skills either by necessity or just to pass the time, Mitch Love is fast becoming an expert in changing over hotel rooms.
The Team Canada assistant coach has been quarantined along with the rest of the team since Nov. 23, after a pair of positive COVID-19 test results led Hockey Canada to suspend its World Junior Hockey Championship selection camp for two weeks.
That means nobody in or out, including cleaning staff.
“I’ve learned what it takes to change a hotel room in terms of linens and towels and keeping things clean because we don’t have any maid service here,” Love said.
It’s yet another reminder of just how different life can be during a pandemic, but Love is taking it all in stride.
“Short of me being at home and being a dad and being around my daughter right now, there’s no other place I’d rather be than to be working with these kids when we get back on the ice,” he said.
The two-week quarantine has forced the Canadian coaching staff to get creative but there’s been no shortage of ways to keep the players busy despite not being able to practice.
That includes a rotation of Zoom calls with a variety of prominent entertainers and athletes.
“It’s funny, we haven’t really spent any time on hockey content during this time, being in quarantine. We’ve had some local Canadian celebrities come on and just have fun with the guys,” Love said.
The guest list has included Arkells frontman Max Kerman, national women’s soccer team players Stephanie Labbe and Kadeisha Buchanan and a musician whose identity Love declined to reveal.
“I can’t mention his name because of confidentiality but he was on and he was great. I’ll let people figure out who that was. Just talking to our guys about his career and his passion for hockey and his excitement for watching this tournament,” Love said.
When they’re not being regaled with celebrity stories, the team has used Zoom for group workouts.
When camp was suspended, a member of the Canadian staff procured 60 stationary bikes from the wider Red Deer community. Each coach and player now has a bike in their room.
Despite the team’s inability to practice, Love isn’t concerned about its preparedness for the tournament. Selection camp had already been running for a week prior to the quarantine, allowing the players to get a firm understanding of Team Canada’s systems and philosophy.
“We feel fine with where we’re at. Of course, when we come out of this we’re going to have to refresh our guys on that along with adding a few things that we missed out on during this break, but these are intelligent kids. They’re elite hockey players. They seem to grasp this stuff quite quickly,” Love said.
And while some have expressed concerns that being quarantined so close to the start of the tournament may put Team Canada at a disadvantage, Love doesn’t see it that way.
“Our guys are going to come out of this thing, they’re going to be refreshed, they’re going to be hungry to get back on the ice, they’re going to be eager to play a game against other competition and we’ve just got to take it one day at a time, making sure we’re prepared as a staff and a group of players to play our first game on the 26th,” he said.
Barring any further positive tests, the team is eligible to return to the ice on Dec. 7.