This is something to be taken in as far as the greater context. Life changed on March 10th for the sports world when basically everything started to be shut down. Over the course of those next few weeks, sport after sport after sport was shut down due to COVID-19 (CoronaVirus). The hockey world probably does not know this journey of mine but it is an important story to tell.
Why? That answer is somewhat simple yet complex at the same time. Many people lost their jobs due to this pandemic including yours truly. What I did have, like some, was a backup plan. In case things went south, there was a contingency I would use thanks to some old connections. Yes, it involved working for a gigantic company that some argue is a monopoly. However, one has to do what they have to in these unprecedented times.
Watching friends and loved ones inside and outside the hockey and sports community struggling was a bitter pill to swallow. At the same time, it gave me a resolve to keep fighting no matter the cost. Little did I know how much that cost would be.
As the NHL approaches a resumption of the season with their “play-in” round then playoffs, this felt like the perfect time to use this platform in a positive way. Anyway, here it goes.
The Humble Hockey Writing End (Sort of)
Those first couple weeks of March were telling. One could see this CoronaVirus was no ordinary outbreak. There were grim predictions and some that were straight out of a doomsday type novel. For me, going to MSG was a privilege. Seeing and covering the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers there is rare and for that to happen was glorious. No Devils fan or writer can deny that. It is the rival and even in another lost season, it provided a glimmer of hope and a little smile.
Little did anyone know a few nights later than a home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins would be the last game for a long while. The feeling was that hockey could keep going maybe until the end of the regular season or something close. After all, there were only a little less than four weeks left. That week was when New Jersey and New York cases were starting to skyrocket, particularly hospitalized cases. The writing was on the wall.
The sports writing and athlete part of me did not bat an eye to this at first. There would be impacts and those known ones, though bad, were not as dire as the unknown. In the meantime, I received the first CoronaVirus test of seven. It was not a pleasant experience as it felt like my nose and chest were being ripped out for 30+ seconds at a time. Ultimately, the result came back negative. However, my sinuses suffered for about a week or so. Hey, it was better than the alternative.
The New Hockey-Less Beginning
After that Pittsburgh game and the Corona test, the jobs started to vanish one by one. Others were being laid off, furloughed, and let go of companies. Watching writers and countless others lose their jobs in the blink of an eye humbles you. It breaks your heart. It makes you angry. One wants to do something. Just like that, there was no hockey. Life became more about quarantining, constantly washing hands, wearing masks, and going out in public at odd hours to run errands. Even grocery shopping became a challenge because of the broken supply chain.
Hockey players, workers, teams, etc. were posting their various plights on social media. Going anywhere was a risk. I was my family’s go-to person because luckily I had a job at Amazon lined up. It was timed perfectly during the “essential worker” phase as well. That meant working long hours with double pay for overtime. It was not easy but the athlete’s mentality in me proved useful. The early days of work were quite dicey. Day shift cases of CoronaVirus were spiking and the night shift was not much better.
Remember that early message from government officials. Being younger and healthier helped but not spreading to those who were higher risk was of greater importance. Words could not have been more true at that time. This meant having a hockey stick at work to keep social distancing. Yes, my stick is just about six feet tall so it was perfect. By the first week of April, deaths were starting to mount along with the hospitalizations. Critical mass was coming soon enough.
Basically, life grounded to a halt by the first week or two of April. It was a cycle of work, sleep, get groceries, work around the house, squeeze time in to work out, then work again. On the couple days off I had, it was more of the same while hoping for something to come from the sports world. That would not be the case.
The other thing lost in all of this was the shutting down of gyms and sporting venues. That meant no more hockey or workouts anywhere except for one’s backyard. There would be no more skating, etc. New Jersey was as shut down as it could get. The time New Jersey stood still began in early April and continued throughout most of the month.
It was only the beginning…
Part two of several to come…