Like everybody else, Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk knows it’s first and foremost about the health and well-being of everybody when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak that’s put the hockey season on pause.
But Grzelcyk has also begun to think about life in the Hub Cities when the Stanley Cup playoffs get going in late July, and what it’s going to be like for everybody including the players, coaches and the team and league personnel needed to put on the actual games. The NHL is expected to announce the Hub City choices this week with the games tentatively scheduled to begin on July 30, and it continues to look like Las Vegas and one of the Canadian cities are the lead candidates to host the games.
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But it’s all going to come with challenges, to be sure. The positive COVID-19 test for one of the Bruins players a couple of weeks ago and the Tampa Bay Lightning shutting down their skating group due to a handful of positive test results are just early signs that there will continue to be bumps on the road until there’s a vaccine.
Grzelcyk is assuming it’s going to be a pretty quiet couple of months as he’s approaching the situation with the sober seriousness it deserves considering that COVID-19 has already killed well over 100,000 Americans in a little more than three months.
“In terms of the hub cities, I’m not sure what to expect. I have full confidence that the league is going to handle it as best they can,” said the 26-year-old Grzelcyk, who is a single guy with less of the family hardships that many NHL players will be facing as they go away to the Hub Cities for perhaps two or three months away from their families. “I know they are taking a lot of suggestions on things. I can’t speak to a lot of people in terms of their family situations, but I’m sure it’s going to be quite a lockdown. I’m prepared to be pretty isolated [in the hub cities].
“Just having myself aware of those things will help. Things probably aren’t going to go as planned the whole time. Things are going to happen. I think that’s been apparent with this whole situation. You realize that adversity is going to hit, but realizing that and preparing for that mentally is going to go a long way on the ice. You make sure that if it’s a long, grueling process to get to the end then you know it will certainly be worth the prize.”
That’s a refreshingly mature attitude, particularly in light of the news that tennis star Novak Djokovic is COVID-19 positive after playing in a tennis tournament and partying with no social distancing protocols over the last week. It also shows a mindset that’s pretty common throughout the NHL where players want to help be part of the solution rather than complicate things with irresponsible or reckless behavior.
“First and foremost, you want to make sure anybody that tests positive is healthy and is taking all the necessary steps to make sure everything is going to go smoothly,” said Grzelcyk. “It’s definitely eye-opening, but at the same time you definitely expect that to pop up. You see more and more cases to pop up across the league and that’s to be expected as well. It’s nerve-wracking and you’re not sure what it all means moving forward. I try to realize the seriousness of the matter. You watch the news every day and you see the seriousness of all of this, and you just want to make sure you’re helping to be part of the solution.
“You want to make sure you’re following all of the guidelines that the CDC is putting in place. When you’re going to the rink and things like that, we realize that it’s a little bit more freedom than maybe at first. But you still have it in the back of your mind that people are losing their lives over this situation and you want to make sure you’re doing more good than harm. Wearing a mask at all times and washing your hands and following those precautions so you don’t spread it on to other people. It’s a serious matter and we want to play, but you realize there are more serious things in life.”