None of this is normal.
Just look at the calendar. It’s July.
Penguins should not practice. They should do one-legged hops in a home gym in the morning and then catch rainbow trout on a pontoon boat in an Ontario lake with a five-syllable name in the afternoon.
But “normal” evacuated almost all horizons a long time ago.
Four months to be exact, if you are an NHL player.
The Penguins remembered this Monday during the first training session of their training camp at Cranberry.
About 10 minutes before the opening of the session, the team announced that nine players would be detained indefinitely after learning that they had potential exposure to a person who had been in contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus.
According to a new NHL policy, the identity of these players has not been revealed. A total of 11 players did not participate in training, including three reserve goalkeepers.
The most notable of the absences was forward Patric Hornqvist.
In a statement, the team said the players were kidnapped “by an abundance of caution to avoid being exposed to anyone in the organization.”
“The decision to quarantine the players out of prudence will only be part of this process,” said coach Mike Sullivan during a video chat with reporters after Monday’s training. “We talked about it a lot as a staff and the potential scenarios that could arise and how we would deal with them and how we would react to them. It is one of those things that we must be ready to adjust and adapt. This is what we did today. ”
Beyond that, the practice was … Ordinary.
This means that it had a frantic pace and that it was minutely detailed. If you didn’t know better, it could have been a random Tuesday between home games in December.
“It’s great to be back,” said forward Sidney Crosby. “We’re all going to take a few days to get used to this kind of new reality for us when it comes to testing and all the social distancing and everything that will happen here at the rink. This is something that we will have to adjust a little, but I think once we get used to it, it will sort of become our new standard. ”
“We thought we had a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm,” said Sullivan. “The guys worked extremely hard. There were parts of the practice where they had to go through some of the fatigue. They did a very good job. ”
Despite the many regulations put in place by the NHL to minimize the risk of players getting coronavirus, the simple act of practicing for the first time since the NHL’s shutdown on March 12 and getting into the profession of professional hockey was warmly welcomed. by the penguins.
“It was great,” said forward Jason Zucker. “It feels good to be there. The first one is always a little hard, a little hard. But once you went back, I thought it was great. It was really nice to be there with the guys and in a team environment. ”
With only two weeks of camp before the team travels to Toronto to be part of the Eastern Conference portion of the post-season tournament to conclude the 2019-2020 season, the Penguins realize the emergency to maximize this limited training window.
“Looking at how the team trained today with the level of energy and the level of enthusiasm we had there is just a statement that we have a group that is excited,” said Sullivan . “Now it’s about making sure that we control what we can every day to give us the best opportunity to take advantage of this. ”
If all goes according to plan, the Penguins will open the playoffs in a qualifier against the Montreal Canadiens at a largely vacant Scotiabank arena in downtown Toronto on August 1.
Although they have missed many of their own players and seen other teams quarantining players across the league, the Penguins are optimistic about NHL plans.
“It will be an important time here over the next few weeks to ensure that we do our best to avoid trouble,” said Crosby. “We get tested here every other day. Everyone is on top and makes sure that we take social distances and all that. We are doing everything we can to avoid it. Hopefully this can be a success and we can get to the (tournament) in good health. ”
In many ways, this hope is normal for this group.
“Our guys, I think, have it in perspective,” said Sullivan. “They understand it. They get it. It is a real trophy difficult to win. But we are really delighted with this opportunity. ”
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Seth Rorabaugh is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] ou via Twitter.
Penguins / NHL | Sports