With the 2019-20 NHL season on pause because of the coronavirus outbreak, Kevin Hayes has returned home like most of his Flyers teammates.
Hayes is around his family in Boston. One of his three sisters is pregnant, "so she's kind of the queen of making sure everyone is doing the right things," Hayes said on a conference call Thursday.
Always upbeat and optimistic, the 27-year-old center is trying to find positives during this unexpected time for not only the hockey community, but also the entire world.
“No matter how much anyone in the league says they miss the game, it’s a lot more important to figure out what’s going with our society right now," Hayes said.
“It’s crazy, this situation has never happened before. I miss going to the rink every day, seeing the guys, seeing the coaches, being able to go out and play against other teams and play in front of our fans.”
Some good things for Hayes during this stoppage:
He has a peloton bike and can also work out at the gym in the nearby living unit of his good friend.
He enjoyed a "hilarious" picture on Snapchat from Michael Raffl in which the 31-year-old Austrian showed off his freshly shaved head.
"We've been kind of giving it to him, but I don't think he's too concerned because he lives in Austria," Hayes said, "he's not going to see anyone for a couple of months."
And Hayes also picked up an old and new hobby.
"I became a gamer again," Hayes said. "I hadn't played Xbox in three years and now I'm slowly addicted to playing 'Call of Duty,' so that's somewhat of a positive and I started cooking for the first time in my life."
What the Flyers had cooking in his first season of a seven-year, $50 million deal, has made his new hobby bittersweet. With 13 games left on their 2019-20 schedule, the Flyers are one point behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals and hold the NHL's sixth-most points at 89. Last season, before Hayes' arrival, the Flyers endured a tumultuous year and finished with 82 points, their fewest over a full season since 2006-07.
In Year 1 with Hayes and head coach Alain Vigneault, the Flyers were rolling before the league was forced to suspend the season on March 12.
The new-look Flyers don't know if they'll be able to finish what they started.
“It sucks because you play this game, you build friendships, you build memories, you build moments where you want to go for the Stanley Cup," Hayes said. "I think our team had come together in a great way and we were really playing for one another and everyone was buying into the system that A.V. put together. And now there’s a possibility that we’ll never see the outcome of that. … I assume that we’re going to be this good all the time, but who knows if we’re going to have this feeling again.
“We were definitely feeling ourselves for a little bit, we had some good swagger, we had some good confidence. We weren’t overconfident, but I thought our leadership group set a standard. … Everyone on our team brings their own leadership into that locker room.”
Hayes has become one of the club's leaders. With time and winning, he endeared himself to the leadership group of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier.
“When I first got there, I wasn’t really nervous, I was just cognizant of how loud to be, how much to talk because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes," Hayes said. "Giroux, Voracek, Couturier, it’s been there team for a while. … I just wanted to feel how they acted and follow their lead, but I would say it took about two weeks until they were probably annoyed with me at the beginning with how much I talked and how much I joked around, but I think they kind of liked it and I still think they like it, so I think it’s working.”
Hayes and the Flyers have something working in Philly. Even if it's on hold for now.
"People were telling me that the fans are hard and the fans are tough on you," Hayes said, "but they're just as passionate as we are.
"The fans have been through the good and the bad times with the Flyers. And hopefully good times in the future."
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