It’s been nearly three weeks since the NHL hit the pause button on its 2019-20 season due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. In those past three weeks, Dallas Stars players have done a variety of things to keep themselves busy. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were the latest to share their stories.
It’s April 1, 2020, and roughly half of the Dallas Stars roster is somewhere outside of the United States.
If things were still normal and going according to plan, the Stars would be in Anaheim tonight to face the Ducks in their 80th game of the season. If things were still normal, they might be looking ahead to next Wednesday when the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs began and trying to figure out which opponent they might face in the first round.
But things aren’t normal and haven’t been since March 12 when the NHL paused its 2019-20 regular season due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Less than 24 hours prior to the pause, Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert became the first professional athlete in North America to test preliminarily positive for the virus.
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That positive diagnosis led to a mass halting of pro, college, and minor league sports across the nation and world. With how uncertain the disease itself was as well as the timeline of the spread, one of the few constants in the world had to be stopped indefinitely.
It’s now April, and the pause is still in full swing. The NHL extended the player isolation protocol to April 15, adding more than another week to a date that has already been shifted back a few times. It will likely be moved back further as time goes along and the virus continues to take full shape.
As a result, Stars players, coaches, staff, and all others in pro sports have been forced to adjust. A handful of NHL teams have temporarily laid off some employees and cut the salaries of others in an attempt to stay afloat revenue-wise considering no new revenue from games and events is coming in. Some top brass in different hockey organizations, such as Dallas GM Jim Nill and CEO Jim Lites, have donated parts of their salaries in order to help keep people in the organization employed.
Writers are being forced to come up with creative ideas for content. Those in broadcasting are trying to fill empty airtime with entertaining content that fans can enjoy, while many others are searching for a source of income with the absence of events needing to be produced.
Sports fans have no hockey, basketball, or baseball games to watch or attend each night in an effort to unwind from a long day.
It’s a tough and unprecedented situation for all involved and invested in sports. That goes for the athletes, too.
For the past three weeks, Stars players have been unable to go to the team’s training facilities. And with the closing of most gyms in the DFW area, their chances of getting a routine workout done at a standard gym is unlikely. Many have their own setups at home, but they aren’t as detailed or extravagant.
The typical cycle for a hockey player has been broken in two during this pause, and it’s caused them to find new ways to spend their free time while also staying active and ready.
Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin talked about it on Tuesday afternoon.
Benn joined a Zoom call with three other Central Division stars (Zach Parise, Blake Wheeler, and Gabriel Landeskog) and answered a handful of questions posed from a moderator about the pause. A few minutes later, Seguin took over the NHL’s Instagram story and answered questions submitted by fans for an hour.
Benn’s call was a unique one because he was the lone athlete of the four that had not spent his past week on dad duty. Instead, Benn has spent the self-isolation period with his girlfriend. Parise, Wheeler, and Landeskog filled the Dallas captain in on what it’s been like taking care of kids on a full-time basis during this time, and Benn responded with a charismatic answer.
“We’ll get there one day,” he said. “My girlfriend Katie and I are enjoying being together. It’s a little bit of a different time. We’re looking at each other throughout the day being like, ‘What are we doing next? What are we doing next?’ while these guys are probably go, go, go all day. Our time will come, but I’ll let these guys do the work for now.”
The focus then shifted to how the players have been keeping in touch with their teammates and other members of the organization during this time. In addition to talking with his teammates, Benn mentioned that he’s probably been involved in more FaceTime calls in the past month than he has been at any other point in his life.
“I think most teams have a team group chat going and we definitely do here in Dallas,” Benn said. “It keeps us entertained and keeps us talking to each other. I feel like I’ve done more FaceTiming in the last month or so with not only teammates, but also friends and family, than I’ve done in my whole life.”
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He and the other Central Division stars went on to talk about the unknown timeline and how it’s important for them to try and stay in shape and “game ready” in any way they can for when the season resumes. When that may be is the real question.
Assuming the season does start up again, the Dallas Stars will look to end a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) that they carried into the break.
“It’s frustrating,” Benn said about the pause. “We’re all in the same boat with our division being so strong. Minnesota and Winnipeg were playing great hockey, and we obviously know how good Colorado is. The break couldn’t have come at a better time for us, though.
“We were slipping a bit and had lost six in a row. I know our group was like, ‘Alright, this isn’t so bad.’ But now that it’s been a few weeks and we don’t know how much longer it’s going to be, we’re all just wishing we could get back out on the ice.”
In addition to talking about the pandemic and quarantining, there were some laughs shared among the four as well.
When Landeskog was asked about which player cheats the most in the face-off dot, Benn quipped, “Gabe’s going to say the Stars as a whole team.” The captain was referencing Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar’s claim that the Stars cheated in the face-off dot following a game between the two clubs in January.
There was also a question about what each player misses the least about the other three. Parise started it off by pointing out that he didn’t miss Benn and Landeskog trying to knock him out when his head was down. He did follow it up by saying that Jamie’s reaction to the physicality is refreshing, though.
“Jamie’s taken some runs at me, too,” Parise said, “but he usually laughs about it after. So, that’s fine.”
“I like playing the game hard and try to play the right way,” Benn added about his style of play. “I have a lot of fun with it. I do a lot of talking on the ice to other players.”
He also added that he and Wheeler have a history of chirping at each other during games and said that they talk about fighting each other each game. Wheeler added that in one game in particular, he and Benn lined up against each other 20 times and the Stars forward asked him to fight every time.
“Third period, tie game, whatever,” Wheeler said. “He’s like, ‘We going?’
Benn mentioned that the two met for the first time in Toronto last year and shared a couple of laughs about their on-ice history over a few beers.
The conversation then shifted to which teammate they would least want to be quarantined with and which one would top their list of favorable quarantine partners. Benn said that Alexander Radulov would top the list of least wanted.
“The guy is crazy, he’s a mess, and you never know what he’s up to,” Benn said of the Dallas Stars wing. “When he’s got his family in town, his pops and his son, and they’re all buzzing around the rink, nobody knows what’s going on. There’s just Russian being spoken everywhere.”
On the flip side, he would most like to be quarantined with Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop, citing a common interest in red wine.
“He’s a fun guy, he talks a lot, and I know he likes the red wine. I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in quarantine with him.”
Benn also talked about how he’s spent his time in quarantine and what might be next on the schedule.
“We crushed Tiger King. I have a hard time sitting there and watching TV shows sometimes. I started FaceTiming my buddies and playing N64. We’re just looking for answers. Lots of board games and we’re trying to mess around outside when it’s nice here in Dallas. I might have to start Ozark.”
On Tyler Seguin’s end, he got a chance to talk about his own endeavors in quarantine.
As many NHL stars and pro athletes have been doing, Seguin has had plenty of time to binge watch new TV shows.
“The show I’m currently binge-watching is StartUp and because of all the hype, I’m going to start Tiger King tonight,” Seguin said on the NHL’s Instagram story on Tuesday afternoon.
And while Benn’s least preferred teammate for quarantine was Radulov, Seguin said that No. 47 was the teammate he misses the most.
“The teammate I miss the most is probably Alex Radulov because he’s a funny guy and he’s always got something going on,” Seguin said.
Like many athletes, he’s found ways to stay in shape for an eventual return to hockey and is keeping pace with a modified workout regiment.
“My gym routine right now is actually pretty good,” Seguin said. “I’m fortunate to have a setup where I am. I talked to my trainer back in Toronto and kind of did a hybrid training routine. So, it’s early in the morning and I’m kind of pretending that hockey is going to start in a couple months, so I’m looking at it like summer. There’s phase one that I’m doing like I would in the offseason, phase two will be more heavy weights, and phase three will be cardio.”
And does he know how to speak any Russian?
“I do not really speak Russian, but I know many words thanks to the Russians on our team,” Seguin said. “I’m pretty sure they’re all negative.”
The story takeover also offered him a chance to share his love for his three dogs (Marshall, Gerry, and Cash) and labradors in general, his thoughts on pineapple on pizza, plans to get a new tattoo, what superpower he would want, his new affinity for cooking, and even sings along to his favorite Taylor Swift song. All of his video answers are still saved in a memory on the NHL’s page in case anyone wants to see them.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unravel across the world, the unknown continues to grow. There’s no set timeline as to when we might be on the other side of this trying time and when pro sports might get the green light to return.
But for now, it’s imperative that everyone stay safe, practice social distancing and proper hygiene, and do their part to flatten the curve. That much, at least, is certain.
“I hope everyone is staying safe, staying inside, and keeping positive through a tough time like this,” Benn said at the end of his conference call. “If we stick together and do the right thing, we’ll be looking forward to something much better. Hopefully we get hockey back soon and can start playing in front of all the great fans of the NHL, especially here in Dallas.”