The NHL put its season on pause 20 days ago due to the COVID-19 outbreak, following the NBA's lead after a player tested positive for the virus. Since then, the world has shut down and it came at a time where hockey players were gearing up for the stretch run and playoff push.
To help give fans a glimpse of how the athletes are handling the quarantine, the NHL over the last few days made the captains of all 31 teams available via video conference call in a group-type setting sorted by division. On Tuesday, it was the Central Division's turn that featured Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators, Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues and Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks in the first group.
Toews said he has remained in Chicago, where he's self-isolating in his new home with his girlfriend and their little Yorkie. He joked that he didn't have much motivation to do anything the first three to five days of the quarantine period, but since then has stayed active by riding a stationary bike and preparing as if hockey could return at any point, even though that remains unclear.
"I can't complain, still finding stuff to do," said Toews, who has spent the past two nights watching Season 3 of Ozark. "Moved into a new place during the season this year and I think you guys can all agree, during the year you kind of put a lot on the backburner with how busy the schedule was and all that, so just catching up, calling some friends and little things that I don't have time to do when we're in season."
Toews was also asked about the state of the franchise and his thoughts on Chairman Rocky Wirtz confirming that the Blackhawks' leadership group of President & CEO John McDonough, GM Stan Bowman and head coach Jeremy Colliton will return for the 2020-21 season.
"Regardless of what's going on in the organization, I think your job as a captain and as a player and for myself and the other guys that have been in the room for a while, it's just to focus on getting the most out of ourselves but [also] getting the most out of our group," Toews said. "We've been through quite a few serious injuries with key players, guys that have experience in the playoffs but that brought that character and that leadership in the room as well, so I think that definitely hurt us.
"But on the other hand, we've got some young players who are learning and getting better really quickly, and I think we showed a lot of signs this year, even if we weren't sitting in a playoff spot right now, that we're right on the edge. ... It's just that experience of playing against the top teams and getting back to that level that we know we can to be a playoff contender."
While it's certainly been challenging for the players to put hockey on hold, all three captains had powerful messages to their fanbases and NHL fans in general. And Toews led the way by going first.
"First of all, we love our fans," Toews said. "We miss them, we miss seeing them at the United Center. Obviously this is a crazy time and a tough time for everybody, but the biggest thing we can learn is, no matter what your background or what your political views are, I think we all are kind of coming together around this and that's the biggest thing. ... That's the biggest message right now, is coming together with your family and friends and your community and wait this thing out. We gotta do what we gotta do to get through it."
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