Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk longs to play hockey again.
“We wanted that from the second it got stopped,” he said.
But Dubnyk isn’t keen on the prospect of getting back to work while being isolated from his family, one of many issues the NHL will have to address while figuring out how it can resurrect a season that was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Guys with kids at home aren’t interested in shacking up somewhere for four months and being away from them,” Dubnyk said Thursday during a video conference call. “… I’m not interested in packing up and going away for that length of time away from my family.
“I can’t imagine that anybody else would, and I think it sounds like the NHL is sensitive to that and understands that. So, we’re just going to have to wait and see how everything unfolds here.”
Centralizing action in a finite number of cities is one of the latest restart scenarios to gain traction since the league came to a standstill in mid-March, but it comes with plenty of logistical questions — including how players will live when they aren’t on the ice.
“It’s like one week you just feel like it’s not possible and then another week you feel like it’s certainly possible. ... It’s impossible to know. As things open up, it seems like other issues arise.”
Dubnyk, the Wild’s representative for the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), said specific options haven’t been tabled, but the effect on families is on the players’ minds.
“Obviously we’re not just going to play in all 31 arenas, so there’s going to be some form of neutral sites or single sites where a bunch of teams are,” Dubnyk said. “What are we looking at as far as are we going to see our families? How’s that going to work? How long are we going to be away? And again, questions that can’t be answered right now but certainly concerns for guys.
“Nobody with kids is going to want to be away for three or four months at a time. I think that’s a lot to ask out of guys.”
Health and safety are other priorities for players since they don’t want to be put in risky situations. Still, Dubnyk felt it was pointless to examine any idea too closely now since the evolving circumstances will help determine the best way to proceed.
“Different options and different possibilities are kind of just going to present themselves week to week,” Dubnyk said. “So it’s not like you can sit down right in this moment and pick one single scenario and say, ‘Yup, this is going to work. This is what we’re going to do as soon as they do a lift to restriction or whatever.’
“There’s just so much uncertainty right now on timing and what’s going to be allowed and when.”
Calls between the NHLPA and its membership are open to all players, and the two sides usually touch base once a week where they rehash any developments and give players an opportunity to ask questions and share comments. Dubnyk relays any relevant information back to his Wild teammates, and he can also field questions.
“All you can do is continue to talk about it and be as prepared as you can,” the veteran said.
This holding pattern is the latest chapter in an already unusual season for the netminder, who has remained in Minnesota and turned 34 on Monday.
Before the break, Dubnyk’s struggles relegated him to the backup role, and he missed significant time to be with his wife, Jenn, while she dealt with a serious medical situation. Dubnyk said Jenn is doing well, and he’s embraced spending more time with her and their three sons during this hiatus.
Hockey, however, is still on his radar and although he said the NHL and NHLPA are working together to find a solution, he isn’t sure if the season will resume.
“It’s like one week you just feel like it’s not possible and then another week you feel like it’s certainly possible,” said Dubnyk, who is 12-15-2 with an .890 save percentage and 3.35 goals-against average in 30 games. “But it kind of comes and goes. It’s impossible to know. As things open up, it seems like other issues arise.”
And yet despite the hurdles and unknowns, Dubnyk is optimistic for a future that looks like the past.
“I don’t know how long it’ll take — hopefully not too long — but I think we have to imagine life will get back to normal, and that is certainly my hope and my wish,” he said. “Whenever that is, who knows? Who knows how long that takes? Obviously, we all hope that it’s shorter because that means good news on the health side of it. But I just can’t imagine life not getting back to the way it was.”