Where there’s a rink, there’s a way.
The pandemic might have stopped most NHL players from skating the past seven weeks, but not Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov.
When the red light went on, the 23-year-old Russian headed up to Wilkes-Barre to stay with his billet family from back when he played as a teenager with the Knights of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League.
Soon he was able to find a nearby (currently closed) private skating rink, albeit smaller than a standard hockey surface, but big enough to do conditioning work, puckhandling and so forth.
All this, mind you, completely by himself in order to practice proper social distancing measures.
At least it gives him a little peace of mind and keeps him somewhat ready when/if the NHL resumes play at a future date.
“Luckily I have a little opportunity to skate,’’ Provorov said during a Thursday media conference call. “It’s just me and no one else. Still following the rules with social distancing, so luckily I’ve been able to skate and work out.
“I’ve been doing that for half the day and then half with my billet brothers and sisters (two boys, three girls).’’
Provorov declined to give the name of the family for privacy reasons.
He said his intention was more to visit his billet family than to find a place to skate.
Provorov played for Wilkes-Barre during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons after emigrating from his hometown of Yaroslavl, Russia as a 14-year-old. Later he played for Cedar Rapids of the USHL (United States Hockey League) and the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League.
The Flyers selected him in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
“I’m really close with my (billet) family,’’ he explained. “I lived with them for two and a half years. I have a really close relationship with them. To be able to spend time with them and hang out. . .and there’s an opportunity to stay in shape most of the time.’’
Another convenience: The billet family’s home comes complete with an in-house gymnasium.
Provorov was asked if the ability to skate on a daily basis will give him an “advantage’’ should NHL play resume.
“I’m not sure,’’ Provorov said. “By the sound of it, we’ll have a training camp. We’ll have plenty of time for everyone to get in shape. It’s not like I’m skating at a national (NHL) rink. It’s like a smaller rink – I’m not doing full-on practices.’’
He said the ice surface is approximately the size of a tennis court (which is 78 feet long, 36 feet wide for doubles).
Like his Flyer teammates, Provorov was heartened by the news that the NHL is exploring the possibility of opening practice facilities sometime in mid-to-late May.
“It’s great to hear that soon we’ll be able to come back to practices,’’ he said. “At least start with small groups and hopefully from there we’ll go to team practices, then hopefully finish the season.’’
Provorov said that during a normal offseason he works out as much as 10-11 hours per day. Right now he’s sort of taking it easy at a more leisurely five-six hours at a time.
“For me, it’s staying in shape and getting my mind off this stuff of kind of being locked down,’’ he said. “Not being able to play the game. It’s been helping. Hopefully, when we come back I won’t need that much time to jump right back in.’’
And, Provorov echoed what other Flyers have said in recent weeks, namely that the stoppage came at a real tough time. Philadelphia had just run off a nine-game winning streak and moved to within one point of the division lead.
“It was definitely disappointing,’’ he admitted. “Because when it happened, the team was playing so well. We finally got on a roll, we were playing our best hockey since the time I got to the league.
“Probably the best hockey we played in the four seasons since I’ve been here. It was really exciting and a little disappointing for us to have to stop. But that was out of our control and I think that everyone is doing the best they can to stay in shape, stay positive and when the league continues, try to get back to the same level we were.’’
On Wednesday, coach Alain Vigneault said it would be his staff’s mission to get his team in a position to regain that momentum. Provorov was on board with that.
“Hopefully, it shouldn’t take that long,’’ he said. “Definitely it’s going to take a little bit of time. Hopefully with some games, we’ll be able to get back to the level that we were at.’’