Jack Eichel is spending his time the way many of us are these days — watching TV, playing video games, and staying home.
The NHL season has been on hold for almost three weeks now and at this point, hockey isn’t on Eichel’s mind too much.
“I love hockey,” the Sabres captain said in a conference call to local media. “It means so much to me, but I think right now it’s kind of been put on the back burner.”
The season was suspended Thursday, March 12, and by Saturday Eichel says that the seriousness of the situation became real to him. “There’s so much more at stake right now than hockey games.”
The Sabres coaching staff and front office have been in contact with the players, mostly focusing on the health of each player rather than talking about hockey.
“The organization has done a tremendous job of staying in touch with the players,” he says.
Eichel is currently in his home in Buffalo, one of the few Sabres players who has not returned to his hometown. Eichel made the decision to stay in Buffalo with his family’s health in mind.
“I’d love to go see my family in Boston. I think that it’s the smart, methodical decision just to stay here and not try and spread anything to them. Just trying to stay safer than sorry,” he says. “I’d love to go home and see my parents. It’s a quick six-and-a-half-hour drive. I definitely miss them but I’m just trying to put their best interest in mind and you really never know who people have been in contact with.”
Eichel’s mom is a nurse in Boston, but is currently on a month of paid leave to care for Eichel’s dad who recently had shoulder surgery.
“There’s just so much unknown to this,” says Eichel. “Just trying to quarantine in my house and stay as healthy as possible.”
Eichel is staying in touch with his various trainers, doing video calls to stay sharp and keep his body in shape.
As far as the rest of the season goes, Eichel says it’s tough to say what the rest of the season will look like. Seemingly everything is rumored to be on the table — an abbreviated end to the regular season, starting the playoffs right away, or even changing the playoff format to include more teams.
It’s unlikely, though, that the Sabres would qualify for the playoffs in all but the most extreme expansion ideas. Buffalo currently has the 13th most points in the Eastern Conference.
No matter what happens, Eichel would like to have to opportunity to end the season in a more traditional manner and get some closure.
“I don’t think you ever want your season to end as abruptly as it did. I think when you look at our group in a team setting, I think we’ve taken a lot of strides this year,” Eichel says. “The NHL is such a competitive league and the parity between the best teams and the middle teams and the bottom teams, it can flip over so quickly. I think we definitely looked at these last 12 games as an opportunity for us to build our culture and build our team identity and to build towards the future.”
Until the final decision is made, Eichel will stay on the couch, looking for more ways to pass the time.