New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau before a faceoff against...

New York Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau before a faceoff against the Florida Panthers at UBS Arena on April 19, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Jean-Gabriel Pageau grew up in Ottawa, played the bulk of his junior career in Gatineau, Quebec, just on the other side of the Ottawa River, and spent his first six-plus seasons in the NHL playing for his hometown Senators.

So having family nearby was a given.

But Pageau was traded to the Islanders on Feb. 24, 2020, and, a little more than two weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic effectively altered everything.

The border-crossing restrictions put in place between the U.S. and Canada meant players often went long stretches without seeing their families.

The border restrictions finally have eased, and one unintended benefit of the Islanders missing the playoffs for the first time since 2018 is a longer offseason to spend with family.

“It’s going to be my longest stretch, for sure,” Pageau said of returning to Ottawa this offseason. “I’ll be here [on Long Island] for a wedding this summer, but other than that, I’ll be in Ottawa with my family. It’s going to be nice to have my wife’s family there, too. My family, our friends. Just kind of get together. Something that we didn’t have the chance to do back when the restrictions arrived.

“It’s going to feel good, definitely. It’s something you don’t realize when I was playing in Ottawa; they were always around. When you leave, you see how much you miss them. I’m excited to see them again for a little bit.”

Anthony Beauvillier, who grew up outside of Montreal in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, said he wouldn’t describe the situation as “a major concern or anything.”

Still, Beauvillier was looking forward to his extended stay at home with family.

“It actually will be nice to see family for a long period of time and not just rush and see them on weekends and whatnot,” he said. “It will be nice to have a summer with the family.

“I feel like it’s been like that for everyone. Everyone has family all over the world. It’s been tough. Not seeing my parents as often, and family.”

Noah Dobson — who had a breakout season at age 22 — and fourth-liner Ross Johnston, products of Prince Edward Island, the smallest of Canada’s 13 provinces in terms of size and with a population of approximately 157,000, also are looking forward to a summer at home.

“We do train together,” said Johnston, from Charlottetown. “I think it’s great. PEI is not very big, and to have us both from the New York Islanders’ organization able to go back there and train and spend time on Prince Edward Island is pretty special. We relish the opportunity of going home and seeing one another there and then seeing our lives down here, it’s pretty cool to do that together.”

“I haven’t seen my family a whole lot, so it’ll be nice to get home and see some friends and family,” said Dobson, who is from Summerside. “Over my first three years, my parents probably didn’t get to see me play as much as they would have liked just with all the restrictions. Having that opening up, it’s always nice to see friends and family.”

There is a mental component to this, and not just for the Canadian players who dress for U.S.-based teams. The pandemic also made returning home to see family for longer stretches harder for the European players.

n  Bellows to play for U.S.

Kieffer Bellows was one of 13 forwards named to the U.S. squad for the IIHF World Championships in Finland and Mathew Barzal reportedly will play for Hockey Canada. The tournament opens on Friday and runs through May 29.

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