Earlier this week, the NHL generated a ton of excitement with the announcement of its Return to Play plan, covering players' voluntary workouts under Phase 2 over the next few weeks.
On Thursday, the league announced that Phase 3, official training camps, won't begin until at least July 10.
That timing could solve an issue that was front-and-centre during a media call with the Canucks' Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter on Thursday. Would Bo be able to be with his wife Holly in Ontario for the birth of their first child, who's expected in July?
"Those are definitely things I've thought about," Horvat said with a sigh. "My wife and I have discussed it, but we haven't made any decisions or talked to anybody about that. We're just kind of seeing how this thing unfolds and plays out and hoping for the best, that I'm going to be there for the birth of my first child.
"How that looks from now? We're just kind of going day-by-day and week-by-week and just seeing how this thing all plays out."
Horvat also mentioned that he believes Antoine Roussel and his wife are expecting their third child in June, and that Jordie Benn and his fiancee, Jessica, are on about the same schedule as the Horvats. Based on the current — very loose — dates, all three players should be able to join the Canucks well before their qualifying round series against the Minnesota Wild begins.
I don't think it'll be an issue if they miss the Phase 2 voluntary workouts. The official start date for those workouts still has not been set, and as I mentioned with Winnipeg's Andrew Copp in the last blog, it seems like a lot of players are going to be more inclined to stay at their home bases and making their own arrangements to get ice and workouts rather than making a point of travelling back to their home team facilities.
On Friday, we got some video of players like Claude Giroux, Cody Ceci and Jean-Gabriel Pageau getting on the ice at the Minto Skating Centre in Ottawa.
Jake Virtanen also posted a 'dress-and-drive' picture earlier this week on his Instagram Story, saying he felt like he was back in pee-wee.
And intrepid Minnesota Wild beat reporter Michael Russo of The Athletic
had a fascinating update on Brock Boeser this week. Because South Dakota hasn't had a stay-at-home order in place, a group of Minnesotans recently secured some ice in Sioux Falls, about three and a half hours away from Boeser's offseason home in Prior Lake.
"We skated a couple hours a day for four days," Boeser said. "That was nice to get back on the ice and shake off the rust."
Boeser also told Russo that he's planning to start skating and working out in small groups with some other NHL players in suburban Minnesota next week. Because of the impending matchup with the Wild, he said he won't be taking advantage of the opportunity that's available to him to skate with the team at their training facility.
With all the restrictions that are in place for players who are officially participating in Phase 2, I get the impression that most of the guys feel more comfortable, at this point, sticking to a more 'normal' routine, if you can call it that — particularly with the possibility looming that once they do officially get back to training camp and especially to games, their freedoms could be quite severely limited. I think they're trying to put that off for as long as possible — especially when we still don't know just how long it will be before those games finally get played.
As far away as it still appears to be, Russo reminds us that Canucks/Wild is nothing sort of a dream matchup for Boeser's first (sort of) playoff experience, and will certainly create some divided loyalties for his friends and roommates.
Russo also provided a pretty positive update on the health of Brock's father, Duke, following his near-fatal cardiac incident last summer.
“Miracle Duke” not only survived, he’s back home and “doing great,” Boeser said, other than the fact that Duke recently underwent surgery because of a fall that broke his collarbone.
“I was outside with my mom and my dad comes out and goes, ‘I broke my shoulder,’” Boeser said. “But he’s come a long ways since last summer, and to see that, it’s a miracle. I don’t know if he fully understands exactly what happened to him last summer, but I think he does a little because sometimes I’ll joke around with him how he has nine lives, and he’s like, ‘No shit.’”
And to wrap up today — a quick reminder that Game 5 of the 1994 Canucks/Leafs series airs Saturday on Sportsnet, at 4 p.m.
I had forgotten how clinically the Canucks shut down the Leafs in Games 3 and 4 of this series, with back-to-back shutouts for Kirk McLean. But Game 5's the barnburner — well worth watching!
Alphonso Davies is back in action on Saturday as well, as Bayern Munich takes on Dusseldorf at 9:30 a.m., also on Sportsnet.