In this dark uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a bright alternate reality for Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey.
The three Islanders have welcomed baby daughters since the beginning of March and now are facing the challenges of raising infants while in self-quarantine with the NHL season on pause since March 12.
As hockey players, they are lamenting the loss of games and potentially the ability to participate in the playoffs. As parents, they are cherishing the extra time at home with their wives and children, not having to continually depart for road trips.
“I’m extremely thankful and it is a silver lining for me,” Lee said. “It’s a blessing for me to be able to spend this much time with her early and it’s amazing how fast they grow, even in just five weeks. And to be able to help out Grace [his wife], too. It takes a lot of effort. I’m just happy I can be there for her and Ruby and be there for myself to enjoy all this stuff. I’ve been doing the best staying positive with all that.”
Ruby Lee was born March 2 and Anders Lee played four games with the Islanders after her birth. He played a home game on March 3, left with the team for Ottawa the next day for a March 5 game and departed with the team to Vancouver on March 8 for what was supposed to be the start of a four-game trip. The Islanders played the Canucks on March 10, then went to Calgary before flying home on March 12 without facing the Flames.
Lauren Eberle gave birth to Collins on March 16, so the season’s pause meant Jordan Eberle did not have to leave the Islanders on the road trip to be home with his wife.
“It hasn’t been overly scary,” Jordan Eberle said of raising their child in the dramatically altered environment of social distancing. “We’ve done a lot of research and talked to a lot of doctors, and it doesn’t seem like the virus is affecting children as much. That being said, you’re still hearing cases of younger kids. So it is a little bit concerning. But at the same time, we’re doing everything we can to keep isolated, keep her safe and, more than anything, trying to get her into a rhythm so she can grow up healthy and we can get through these first couple of months.
“My wife really hasn’t left at all and she’s breastfeeding so she’s able to give her antibodies to the baby,” Eberle added.
Bailey and his wife, Megan, already the parents of two young boys, had Blake on March 31.
“It was different,” Josh Bailey said. “Leading up to it, I was pretty stressed about it, to be honest. I think the day before, I was much more stressed than even before the boys were born. Thankfully, my wife was calm and cool about everything. I felt a lot more at ease once we got to the hospital and they really did a great job. Everybody working there in the maternity ward took every precaution possible to keep everyone safe.
“After that, we just wanted to get her home as quick as possible, Meg and her,” Bailey added.
Their first son, Wyatt, was born in August as Bailey was preparing for training camp. Their middle child, Mack, was born in October, just as the season was beginning. So this is Bailey’s first time to spend uninterrupted family time with an infant.
“You’re just trying to make the most of it and be thankful that I do get to spend this time,” Bailey said. “It’s been nice to really be there and be a presence and to really help Meg out. Be around the boys, too. When the sun’s shining, it makes the days go a little faster, being able to play outside. Really, I’m just enjoying the time with all of them.”