As much as Kevin Hayes rues a possible missed opportunity for what was a surging Flyers team, the talented center wants to make clear what his priorities are.
Namely, that the health and welfare of our society ranks high above the status of professional sports like ice hockey.
In a media conference call on Thursday, Hayes said he shares the same concerns that all of us do.
There’s perhaps even more at stake for the Hayes family up in Boston. Kevin’s sister is pregnant and both his parents are cancer survivors.
“Everyone’s doing well,’’ Hayes reported during the call. “My sister is. . .the queen of making sure everyone is doing the right thing. She’s not taking any risk. My mom and dad are pretty carefree people but they realize what they have to do. They’re healthy and quarantining themselves. So far so good for everyone.’’
That said, Hayes understands his profession has to remain patient as we work our way through these trying times.
“This is a very odd situation that happened but just like everyone else has been saying. . .everyone misses hockey but we have to sit at home and figure out what’s going on right now and get that handled before we come back,’’ Hayes said.
“It’s crazy. The situation has never happened before. I miss going to the rink everyday, seeing the guys, seeing the coaches and playing against other teams, playing in front of our fans.’’
As both general manager Chuck Fletcher and forward James van Riemsdyk said in recent interviews, the Flyers know they were on a roll prior to the stoppage and appeared headed for good things. But that’s something that is just part of history now.
“You should never expect something like that (health crisis) to happen,’’ Hayes said. “So it’s kind of weird. It’s weird for us because I think we won nine in a row and we just lost to the (Boston) Bruins. We were feeling good about ourselves – trying to catch up to the (Washington) Capitals (for first place) in the Metro.
“Now we’re just kind of sitting at home, not really seeing each other, just through Facetime.’’
Hayes was asked if he’s contemplated the possibility of no resolution to the 2019-20 season.
“I think everyone’s a little bit concerned about that,’’ Hayes said. “I mean it sucks because you play this game, you build friendships, you build memories, you build moments, you want to go for the Stanley Cup.
“I felt as if our team had come together in a great way and we were really playing for one another. Everyone was buying the system that AV (coach Alain Vigneault) put together and now there’s the possibility that we will never see the outcome of that.
“Who knows if we’ll ever be. . .I mean I assume we’re going to be this good all the time. But who knows if we’re going to have this feeling again. It’s kind of sad that you can’t go to the rink everyday. Everyone’s dealing with this, so it’s not just us.’’
Like JVR, Hayes is doing his best to stay in shape during the protracted hockey freeze.
“I haven’t skated since the practice before we went to Tampa (March 11),’’ Hayes said. “Nothing really correlates to on-ice training. That has probably gone away a little bit. I have a Peleton (stationary bike), that’s about it.’’
Hayes played four-plus seasons in New York with the Rangers. He says it’s heartbreaking to watch what’s going on in the Big Apple. Nearly 500 people died in New York from COVID-19 on Wednesday-Thursday alone.
“I think people were taking it lightly at the beginning and weren’t following the right procedures to quarantine,’’ Hayes said. “It sucks to see that in New York, which is kind of in the middle of it.
“It’s an unbelievable place, it’s one of the best places in the world. It’s horrible what’s going on there. The streets are completely empty. I used to love walking around. . . now you don’t see anybody. It’s gloomy for sure.’’
There’s been talk of playing games at neutral sites or even in home buildings like the Wells Fargo Center without fans.
Hayes believes an empty building would essentially nullify any home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
Neutral-site games would be what they are – no advantage for either team.
“If there are going to be no fans there, I don’t think it’s a big deal,’’ Hayes said. “It doesn’t matter where the ice is. I think the biggest part of the home-ice advantage is the fans, the feeling you get entering the arena and the passion of the fans, how much you want to play for them.
“If there aren’t any fans there, you’re really not going to have home-ice advantage. If it’s just the ice, it’s pretty much the same everywhere.’’
Should hockey come back in time to complete the season, Hayes knows it could be tough for the Flyers’ to regain the momentum they had built.
“We were definitely feeling ourselves for a little bit,’’ he said. “We had some good swagger, some good confidence. We weren’t overconfident. I think our leadership group kind of set a standard.
“It’s weird dynamic. Everyone on our team kind of brings their own leadership into the locker room. I think a lot of people bought into our system. I think in a couple months, if we go back to it and we have to jump into playoffs, I’m pretty confident we have some older veterans who should get everyone back to business pretty quickly.’’
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