Jordan Eberle was already flying back from Calgary to Long Island to be with his pregnant wife, Lauren, when he received news the NHL was pausing its season on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, Eberle, similar to his Islanders’ teammates and fellow players around the league, remained optimistic the season would resume. Three weeks later, Eberle is still hopeful but knows the NHL may come to a point where it must prioritize next season over this one.
“We stopped in Fargo to refuel and I got the text that the season was postponed,” Eberle said Thursday on a conference call set up by the Islanders. “I think, at that point, you’re optimistic it’s going to resume based on some of the information you’re getting. But you do think it’s going to be a month.
“I think the longer we go into this, the more we run out of time and, at some point, you have to come to a conclusion on what’s a final date to salvage going into next year,” added Eberle, whose daughter, Collins, was born on March 16. “We still have some time before that.”
On Tuesday, the NHL extended the self-quarantine period for its players through April 15 and President Donald Trump has extended social-distancing guidelines in the U.S. through April 30. The Ottawa Senators announced on Wednesday three more unidentified players have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total to seven players around the NHL.
“In a word, it’s just kind of been confusing,” Eberle said. “We’re just stuck in limbo and none of us really know what’s going on so you’ve just got to mentally keep your focus as much as you can and keep in shape as much as you can if the season does start.”
Eberle said his wife has not left their home and both his parents and his wife’s remain at their homes in Calgary. Other than FaceTime, the grandparents have not met their new grandchild yet.
“If there’s anything that’s more frustrating than anything is you go a bit stir crazy at home,” Eberle said. “My whole life, I’m used to doing some activities every day and burning energy every day and it seems like some days, I can’t sit still at home. I’m jittery. I’m running up and down the stairs. We have a gym in the basement so I’m trying to keep motivated to work out as much as I can. But when there’s no clear-cut date on when the season is starting, sometimes the focus can get lost.”
Eberle said he would have no problem if the NHL wound up playing through August, though he said he had no suggestions on whether the regular season should be completed or what the fairest playoff format would be. If the NHL opted to go straight into the playoffs, there’s a possibility some players' offseason could last around seven months while others might only have a month off before 2020-21 began.
“There’s going to be tons of stuff like that,” Eberle said. “We don’t have the guideline to when we’re starting so it’s just such a hard question to answer.”
Eberle was also asked which teammate he’d most want to be quarantined with — he said captain and fellow new dad Anders Lee — and who was on the opposite end of the spectrum.
“[Mathew] Barzal, for sure,” Eberle said. “He’s got a ton of energy. To have him cooped up for a while, I’d probably want to punch him out by the end of it.”
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