An injury-interrupted season has given Morgan Rielly a hockey perspective. The global pandemic has given him a perspective on life.
The Maple Leafs defenseman and alternate captain is in North Vancouver during this break from hockey, all other sports and normal life.
“There is no way around it,” said Rielly on Thursday during a team conference call with journalists. “It has sometimes been difficult to cope, but it is the same for everyone. We all take care of it. We all have our own means. “
The 26-year-old returned to the Toronto squad on March 10 after missing two months with a broken foot. Two days later, the NHL joined the NBA to suspend games to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the disease that causes COVID-19.
“After eight weeks, you are working very hard to get back,” he said. “Then you play a game and there is a break. It’s not really ideal, but I think I would go crazy if I hadn’t played since early January [at this point]. ”
He had plenty of time to think about the season outside of the Maple Leafs. A bad start resulted in the dismissal of Mike Babcock as head coach. There was a short rally under the new name of Sheldon Keefe. They maintained a playoff spot when the games were stopped. But the one thing they were consistent on was the inconsistency everywhere.
“During a break like this, there is a lot of time to deal with what has happened this year,” said Rielly. “As a team, it is important that we use this downtime to take a look in the mirror. When the game resumes, we have to be better.
“Deep down, you have to take it personally and help the team be more consistent. “
He is in quarantine in British Columbia with his girlfriend, Tessa Virtue. He and the ice dancer, Olympic champion, have been going out quietly for a while.
On January 8, they came together to attend the annual Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Blue and White Gala at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.
This created a pan-Canadian buzz. Who needs Harry and Meghan when we have such an attractive couple? Both universally appreciated athletes. Fans of both agree.
In February, Virtue left a heart-warming emoji on an Instagram post from Rielly in search of an elegant suit. A little later, Rielly’s teammate Auston Matthews tackled the thriving romance on the popular Barstool Sports podcast Spittin Chiclets. Auston’s nose seems to come off a bit as his boyfriend, Mo, continually avoids it.
“I was quite upset with him for a while,” said Matthews. “He sort of kept quiet. He didn’t really go out and said [anything]. I shook myself a little against him. Then I met her and she is an absolute lover so I said to her, “Okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.”
Just over a week ago, Virtue did an Instagram Live interview published by Arkells leader Max Kerman. At one point, Rielly leaned over her shoulder to say hello, then later sat down next to her and wrapped an arm around her.
They hinted that they were training together, had basic FaceTime training with a Toronto trainer, and enjoyed long walks and hikes and things at home.
It’s fun and fun in a world where we are all out of touch.
“We’re both sort of together,” said Rielly, when asked about her lover. He hinted that they had barbecue and chicken dinners, but not much else. “We try to stay sane. I don’t want to say too much about it, but … I’m happy in a time like this that I’m not alone. We all need to talk to someone. “
He was watching home basketball in Toronto on March 11 when the news was announced that the NBA was suspending its games. He and other players showed up at the Scotiabank Arena the next day for an early morning skating session.
Instead, they were all sent home. By mid-afternoon, the NHL and virtually all of the remaining professional leagues had followed the example of the NBA.
“Things have become very real,” says Rielly.
He says his point of view has changed.
“You go grocery shopping in the morning and realize you have to get there early enough to pick up something,” he said. “Each week there is a new experience. You go to the grocery store now and there is a queue.
“It is scary, but we have to remember that we are all in the same boat. Being inside for so long is new territory for all of us. You have to do what you can to keep yourself in a good frame of mind. “
He hopes to play hockey soon
“There comes a time when it is not under our control,” he says. “I can tell you that the players miss playing and want to play. It’s strange not to be there. I hope the time will come when this happens. “