FILE - In this Saturday, March 7, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba passes the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings in Los Angeles. Bonding between veterans and youngsters has been a time-honored tradition in hockey. But in yet another setback related to the relentless COVID-19, NHL protocols aiming to curb the virus spread and keep the schedule on track could make that vital off-ice development of camaraderie more difficult. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

FILE - In this Saturday, March 7, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba passes the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings in Los Angeles. Bonding between veterans and youngsters has been a time-honored tradition in hockey. But in yet another setback related to the relentless COVID-19, NHL protocols aiming to curb the virus spread and keep the schedule on track could make that vital off-ice development of camaraderie more difficult. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Mentors wanted: Virus limits vet-rookie time away from rink

Bonding between veterans and youngsters has been a time-honoured tradition

Colorado defenceman Ian Cole has taken a young kid under his wing as he starts his 11th season in the NHL, dining with him often and going the extra mile to make sure his needs are met.

Of course, this is Cole’s infant son, who was born over the summer.

Someday, maybe Cole will serve again as a full-blown mentor for an NHL rookie. For now, in this COVID-19 climate, that’s harder to do.

Bonding between veterans and youngsters has been a time-honoured tradition in hockey, with older players routinely inviting rookies to live with them during their first season to help them get settled in. Building that kind of off-ice camaraderie is far more challenging now because of the pandemic.

“The directive that we’re getting is don’t hang out with anyone outside the rink. Don’t go to dinner. Don’t have dinner parties. Don’t do anything like that. Don’t see anybody,” Cole explained. “It’s tough to build that chemistry away from the rink.”

Veterans across the league credit those unofficial rookie-year mentorships as instrumental in launching their careers. That was the case for Cole, who was guided by Barret Jackman while both were in St. Louis. Jackman was married with a family. Cole was young and living alone. Still, they built a strong relationship that translated into better on-ice performance.

“It’s not like we would hang out and go bar hopping by any means,” Cole said. “We built that chemistry at the rink and we were able to do it. I think that now may be more challenging but not impossible.”

The league rules are explicit and include: Avoiding close, social contact with non-family members; staying away from restaurants, bars, and clubs during road trips; and not eating meals with anyone outside the household.

The recent world junior championships provided Matt Dumba the perfect opportunity to reach out to rookie Kirill Kaprizov, his new teammate with the Minnesota Wild.

Kaprizov took some friendly razzing after he arrived at Dumba’s home as Canada beat Russia in the semifinals between their home countries, but the visit — as they tried to be as virus-safe as possible — served a greater purpose. Dumba recalled his early years when blue line partner Jordan Leopold was the one looking out for him.

“I’d be over at his house all the time chasing around the kids, having a good, home-cooked meal,” Dumba said. “To have that early in my career, guys who have my best interests in mind and just wanted to help me through it and just build my confidence, that’s how a team works.”

The St. Louis Blues brought their younger players to camp early for a head start on team-building in this unusual season. Like everyone, they’re adapting.

“You don’t get your normal situations where you’re checking out restaurants. You don’t do as many things together, but we still are doing our best,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said.

Team building doesn’t always have a veteran in the mix: Ottawa centre Tim Stuetzle, the third pick in the 2020 draft and still a teenager, was invited to live not with a graybeard but with a pair of 21-year-old American teammates, Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris.

“It’s a very nice way for them to ask me to live with them,” said Stuetzle, who is German. “It’s going to be much easier for me to get to know everybody really good.”

That’s the way it was for Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar, who bunked with the family of teammate Matt Calvert when he first arrived during the ‘18-19 playoffs. Makar didn’t have to worry about where to get a good meal or how to get to the practice rink.

“It definitely took some stressors off,” said Makar, the ‘19-20 Calder Trophy winner. “Calvy was amazing with it. It really helped me out.”

This season, though, is just different. Dinner parties are on hold. Movie excursions might not take place on the road. The best team-building opportunities might have to be through video games.

“On the ice, you spend time with them,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “Away from the rink, it’s a lot different, just like the rest of the world.

“No doubt everyone has had to make adjustments in their every day life. Same thing with NHL rookies and bonding with NHL veterans. We’re finding ways and I’m sure once we get playing we’re going to see enough of each other at the rink.”

This season will hardly be the usual introduction to the NHL for these rookies, but skill is skill and there will be plenty of impact made and highlights created.

First overall draft pick Alexis Lafreniere will slide right into the lineup for the New York Rangers. Stuetzle is expected to be an instant contributor for Ottawa. Kaprizov has made a strong first impression in Minnesota.

“Kirill is a good kid, man. He’s awesome,” Dumba said. “I love his energy. He’s one of those guys that, even though there is a language barrier, he tries to fight through it and he doesn’t really care what kind of spews out. It’s nice to have a guy like that because then you can work with him.”

Kaprizov smiled as he spoke last week about the way the Wild have welcomed him.

“They’re very helpful,” he said through his Russian interpreter. “Every time I got a question, even though they can’t fully communicate, whether I’m showing something on my hands or trying to explain something, they’re always finding a way to communicate and help me out, instead of just kind of sending me on my way.”

By The Associated Press

hockey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Traffic will be delayed on 40th Avenue and 19th Street until the end of February. (Advocate file photo).
Traffic delays expected downtown this weekend

Red Deer drivers will be delayed in the downtown area of the… Continue reading

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read