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Johnny Hockey has apparently been moonlighting as Johnny Lumberjack.
With the NHL on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary Flames superstar Johnny Gaudreau headed home and is self-isolating with his family.
“I’m out in the middle of the country here in New Jersey at my parents’ house, so I’ve been riding the bike a lot and my dad has me and my brother outside chopping trees down,” the 26-year-old left-winger said in a phone interview Friday. “I think we have enough firewood to last us for four years.
“We’ve been staying active for the most part, for not being allowed to go anywhere or do anything. But it gets a bit old after a while. I wake up every morning hearing the chainsaw and I’m like, ‘Yep, better get outside or else dad is going to be inside pulling me out of bed.’ ”
This should have been the time of year that Flames fans were dreaming of a lengthy playoff run, of a reignited Red Mile.
Gaudreau & Co. were supposed to wrap their regular-season slate Saturday with another instalment of the Battle of Alberta. From High River to High Level, fingers were crossed for a long-overdue post-season showdown between the Flames and arch-rival Edmonton Oilers.
It could still happen, but not anytime soon. On Friday, the City of Calgary banned any public events until the end of June, meaning the lights at the Saddledome will remain switched off into summer.
The NHL, which halted action March 12, has asked teams to provide rink availability for July and August.
“It’s definitely been tough — you’re expecting to go into playoffs in about a month, you have 10 games left and you’re fighting for a playoff spot, big games coming up, and all of a sudden you’re at a standstill and it shuts off immediately,” Gaudreau said of the pandemic pause. “You want to be on the ice with your teammates. You want to be playing hockey. But for me personally, it was also nice to get home. It was a rough couple weeks there with my grandfather passing away, and then my grandmother is sick. So it’s been a tough year. So to be home and spend some time with my family … It’s been really good.
“It’s time I kind of needed. But at the same time, you want to be playing hockey. You want to be on the ice with your teammates and trying to win a Stanley Cup.”
The NHL is hoping to resume its season but all team facilities are currently off-limits due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, forcing the skating stars to be creative as they try to stay in shape while stuck at home.
Gaudreau, like so many NHLers, owns a Peloton bike.
He has also been getting a virtual assist from Michelle McGrattan, whose husband Brian was an enforcer/fan favourite for the Flames and is now on the team staff. Michelle is a nutrition coach and fitness instructor, and one of Gaudreau’s sisters subscribes to her site.
“We watch her videos online and we’ll follow her steps and stuff, and they’re pretty good workouts,” Gaudreau said. “We’ll crank the heat up in our house and try to get a good sweat in.
“I told Grats it’s a little bit more difficult than I thought it was going to be. I was expecting to go through like a little breeze, and it’s actually a really good workout.”
When he’s not chopping down firewood or sweating in the living room, Gaudreau has been killing time with X-Box and card-games and admitted to “a lot of Amazon purchases” as he fills up the summer home that he purchased last year.
Whenever he gets the word, he’ll be anxious to report back to the rink.
“I’ll just be really excited to be back in Calgary, back playing and being around the guys and just getting back to the normal,” said Gaudreau, who sits second on the Flames’ scoring charts with 58 points in the 2019-20 campaign. “Hopefully we can get back to it as quick as possible, but I understand that we need to stay safe, stay healthy and try to beat this thing.”
The pause in the NHL’s schedule has allowed David Rittich an opportunity to recover from an elbow injury.
The Flames’ all-star goaltender has returned home to the Czech Republic, but revealed on a video-conference with reporters that wasn’t able to resume off-ice/at-home workouts until earlier this week.
“One day before leaving (Calgary), I had gotten plasma injection into my elbow that had been bruised and I had some stretched tendons there,” said Rittich, according to a story posted on NHL.com. “I could not do anything for a week … This week, I started to exercise a bit and recover.”
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