This is not the way Brenden Dillon envisioned his year going. At the start of the season, he had Stanley Cup aspirations with the San Jose Sharks. Now he is stuck in a hotel in Arlington, Va., on the other side of the country both from where he started and from where he calls home.
"What a year it's been, really," Dillon said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think for anybody, not just myself or not just a hockey player or a Sharks player specifically, if you were to talk to us in August what things would be like come March time, what it would be. I think it's just at this stage with how everything's gone for me, I almost feel like a little bit of just a lone ranger with where I'm at."
Dillon has been with the Sharks since getting traded by the Dallas Stars in November 2014. During his time there, he made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. After several years there, San Jose began to feel like home. That was evident in the emotional postgame interview Dillon gave when contemplating if he had just played his last game with the Sharks.
"Leaving San Jose, I was there for a long time, had a home there, had everything kind of stability," Dillon said.
He added, "It's not just somewhere that you work, it's not just somewhere that you move to for hockey. It becomes your home, it becomes your family, your teammates. It becomes second nature where the streets, the people you meet not just at the rink but at the grocery stores, the mall, whatever it might be. You really build those relationships and then really with one phone call your life can completely change."
That phone call came on Feb. 18 when the Capitals traded for the veteran defenseman to shore up the team's blue line.
The trade itself wasn't a surprise. On an expiring contract and with the team being where they were in the standings, Dillon knew he was likely to get traded. When he got word he was going to Washington, he was excited for the opportunity, but that transition to a new team is rarely an easy one.
"You're going from, in my case, one side of the country to the other," Dillon said. "You're going and meeting 22, 23 new coworkers that you're going to see every day. I was very lucky to come to a team like Washington where, when I did come out this way, the guys, I was sitting right in between [Alex Ovechkin] and [John Carlson]. It was pretty cool to be a part of that. I think just the opportunity for me on the ice, it was a perfect fit for my kind of game, being able to skate, move pucks and play my physical brand of hockey. I think it was pretty seamless."
Now that transition has been put on hold as life decided to throw another monkey wrench Dillon's way with the spread of the coronavirus.
With the season paused, Dillon has stayed in an Arlington hotel trying to stay in shape and adjust to his new life. But he is making the best of it with his new teammates.
"There's been a lot of guys here who even during this time, whether it's just a few of us getting together and playing some tennis in the area," Dillon said. "I mean there's a good chunk of guys that are still in town so it's kind of been nice to at least have a little bit of that other than staring at a wall. I've done more puzzles and watched more Netflix than I think a lot of people could. I think though when it does come to the actual hockey part of things, it has been good out here. "
Dillon's mentality has remained positive through it all.
Though emotional about leaving San Jose, Dillon is excited about the chance to come to Washington to compete for a Cup. After a few weeks, he has a good idea of where the good spots are for food in Arlington and Washington, and he is thankful for his new teammates who have made an effort to make him feel welcome.
Dillon is excited for the opportunity that lays before him, he is just anxious to get going again.
"It was fun to be a part of a lot of success in San Jose for the five, six years that I was there," Dillon said. "I will forever cherish that time, from the fans to the city and I'll definitely go back and visit and see some of my friends that are in the town. But to come out here, already it's been a great, great group of guys from management to the coaches to the players specifically too. Really made me feel at home."
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