Like most of the Flyers, veteran forward Scott Laughton remains cautiously optimistic that hockey will come back at some point to complete the 2019-20 season.
The million-dollar question is: When?
As uncertain as life in general is right now, professional sports are even more in a state of flux.
Laughton has heard all the proposals out there – from playing at neutral sites like North Dakota and New Hampshire, to competing in empty NHL buildings with no fans in attendance.
At the end of the day, it comes down to how quickly the pandemic can be brought under control and allow things to be safe again for large gatherings of people.
“I think you have to be optimistic at this point to be able to come back and play some hockey,’’ Laughton said in a Tuesday media conference call. “Hope for the best.
“Obviously we’re talking together as a group and the players’ association. It’s a little bit out of our hands right now. But at the same time you have to stay optimistic, train and be ready for when the season comes.’’
As for the possibility of neutral-site games, Laughton agreed with teammate Kevin Hayes, who said last week he would be willing to give that a try.
At least the games would be televised and give the fans something to watch in these trying times.
“Any chance that gives us a way to play some meaningful hockey, that’s what you play all year for,’’ Laughton said. “I think that’s what a lot of guys are thinking here in Philly. . .we want to play hockey and we want to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
“I think if there’s any chance we could do that, logistics-wise I guess, wherever we play; but first and foremost is the safety of everyone and if we can get past all of this and come out stonger (then) hopefully we can get something done and play.’’
Currently Laughton is quarantining with his girlfriend at their apartment in Philadelphia. He recently bought a place in Toronto and plans on driving up there in about a week.
If the NHL gets the green light, Laughton figures it would take about a two-week “training camp’’ to get back up to speed.
“Everyone is such good pros that, I don’t know the exact amount of time but I would say about two weeks to get back up into it,’’ he said. “And see what happens after that.’’
Laughton said he’s been practicing yoga. Also, he’s been in contact with his trainer back in Canada who coordinates his workouts.
“The odd day I’ve been yoga with my girlfriend in the living room,’’ he said with a chuckle. “Just trying to get a sweat on, stay active. Just stay in shape as best as I can.’’
A common theme of recent calls with Hayes, James van Riemsdyk and general manager Chuck Fletcher has been the idea that the stoppage came just as the Flyers were at peak performance, at one point winning nine straight games and challenging for the Metro Division lead.
There’s a certain degree of frustration there, which Laughton acknowledged.
“I think the way we were rolling when it kind of got shut down, there was a really good feeling in the locker room. You don’t know what would have happened in the last 13 games we missed,’’ he said.
“The vibe was good. We were playing some of our best hockey of the year. Hopefully we can come back and return to that. But you can’t really carry that momentum over with this much of a break. It’s just a reset and hopefully we can come back.’’
At times like this, the veteran leadership group (Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, van Riemsdyk, Brian Elliott, etc.) is so important, from both a physical and mental standpoint.
Those experienced players can keep a handle on things. An example is the 2012-13 lockout, which cost the NHL nearly half a season. All the aforementioned players went through that adversity.
“I think the way it’s kind of gone in the last 10 years with fitness and nutrition, everyone is kind of staying on top of it,’’ Laughton remarked. “I think in the league now you have to stay quick, agile.
“JVR (van Riemsdyk, the Flyers’ rep to the players’ union) has kind of been our voice throughout this. He’s been giving us little details throughout. Guys are trying to stay in touch with each other and see how everyone is doing.’’