If James van Riemsdyk had been told he would have to quarantine for a lengthy stretch without his family in order to play hockey again, it might have been a big issue.
Actually, a little issue.
His baby daughter, Scarlett, was just born on May 2 and being without the first child of he and his wife, Lauren, would have been painful to say the least.
But people involved in the NHL’s return to play negotiations have assured the Flyers veteran left wing that if the 2019-20 season does resume, he won’t be kept in isolation for long periods of time.
For the Middletown, N.J. native, that’s a huge relief.
In a media conference call on Wednesday, van Riemsdyk, the Flyers’ NHL Players’ Association rep as well as a member of the return to play committee, discussed a variety of subjects relating to when the sport might see the ice again.
Possibly at the top of the list of most players’ concerns is not only health and safety of the individuals competing in the game but whether they will have to live “in a bubble,’’ i.e., away from their families for weeks or months.
“That’s a big thing,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “No one wants to be away from their family for months on end. I know everyone is aware of that who is on this committee.
“I don’t think we would be asked to do something like that. I think it would be much more manageable, sort of a set-up situation. We’re trying to sort through a lot of that but I know no one’s asking us to be without seeing our families for too long of a stretch.’’
Recently, JVR’s parents, Frans and Allison, drove from New Jersey to Minnesota non-stop (19 hours) just to see their new grandchild.
“They drove a straight shot through just to try and not expose themselves (to the COVID-19 virus) and then they quarantined themselves (at a local bed and breakfast) when they got here,’’ van Riemsdyk explained. “It’s been obviously awesome to be able to share this with them.’’
Juggling the time between being a new dad and getting on hockey phone calls can be tricky at times.
“It can be kind of sporadic,’’ he said. “I’m trying to make as much time as I can for that (calls). That’s an important thing, trying to navigate the different issues that there are so we can try to find a way to get things going here.’’
One subject making headlines has been a proposed 24-team playoff format as opposed to the traditional 16-team tournament.
Van Riemsdyk said nothing has been set in stone just yet.
“There are a bunch of different formats being talked about,’’ he said. “It’s hard to really say what the leader is because again things can change. Nothing is really certain. Things can change so quickly and they have.
“Things that were looked at earlier on (such as playing in isolated areas like North Dakota and New Hampshire) probably aren’t feasible now. We’re trying to keep as many options open and navigate through different things. Obviously first and foremost is the health and safety of everyone, from there it’s trying to find something that keeps that integrity and competitiveness which is so great about our game and the Stanley Cup.’’
Everyone following all professional sports knows the clock is ticking. There are so many issues to work out in hockey and Memorial Day weekend is already practically upon us.
Can everything be settled in time to have a meaningful conclusion to the 2019-20 season? Is there a drop-dead date?
“Again, with all the uncertainty that’s around everything still, it’s tough to say what that date would be,’’ JVR said. “It’s one day at a time and go from there.
“Things can be a little flexible with the scheduling and timing of things to say when it (a restart) is appropriate.’’
Van Riemsdyk suffered a fractured finger just prior to when the pandemic shut things down. He says he’s just about fully recovered and is ready to play should hockey resume.
“I’ve been able to play for a couple weeks now,’’ he said. “Things are feeling pretty good. I wouldn’t say that they’re feeling back to where they were before but certainly good enough to play.’’
Things are starting to open up again in Minnesota and JVR sounds hopeful he can get back on the ice again at some point just to get rid of some of the rust.
“The key for all of us is just getting guys back on the ice in a safe way,’’ he said. “There’s health in regards to the virus but there’s also health in regards to your fitness and just the motion of being a hockey player is so unique – it’s not something you can do without being on the ice.
“That’s going to be key to alleviating some of that injury risk.’’