Ivan Provorov is one of the lucky ones during the pause in the NHL’s season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He is staying with his billet family in Wilkes-Barre -- he lived there as a teenager after moving from Russia -- and not only has access to a full gym at the house, but is one of the few NHL players who has been able to skate almost daily.
Provorov, 23, a physical-fitness addict who is the Flyers’ top defenseman, has been skating at a private rink, located just outside Wilkes-Barre, and working out five to six hours a day. He should be in great shape when/if the season resumes.
“Luckily, I have a little opportunity to skate; it’s just me, no one else,” Provorov said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. “I’m still following the rules with social distancing and everything like that. I’m able to skate and work out. I do that for half the day, and I’m spending time with my billet brothers and sisters."
In the summer, Provorov said, he goes through “10 weeks of hell” in his workouts, “going through 10 or 11 hours a day. Here it’s a little less.”
But the access to a home gym and a skating rink is not the main reason he decided to stay in Wilkes-Barre.
“Just [wanted] to spend time with my billet family,” he said.
Provorov was 14 when he began staying with the family to play for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights bantam team.
“I lived with them for 2½ years and have a really close relationship with them, so I just wanted to spend time with them and hang out. And, yes, there’s an opportunity here to stay in shape and skating whenever I can. ... It kind of gets my mind off all stuff being locked down and not being able to play the game. It’s been helping."
Provorov, who is staying with a family that has two boys and three girls who are in either high school or college, was asked if skating during the break would give him an advantage over other players if the season returns.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “By the sound of it, we’ll have a training camp and we’ll have plenty of time for everyone to get in shape.”
He said he is skating on ice that is around the size of a tennis court.
“It’s more like a private, smaller rink; it’s more like for a few people, so it’s not like it’s full ice," he said. "Just an opportunity to stay on the ice, but not anything close to the game or team practices. I think we’ll have plenty of time for everybody to get in shape and get on the same level.”
The NHL said Wednesday night it is hopeful players can return to their practice rinks in mid-to-late May and begin small-group activities.
“It’s great to hear that hopefully we’ll soon be able to get back and at least start with small groups and hopefully from there game practices and be able to finish the season,” said Provorov, who had 13 goals, 36 points, and a plus-11 rating when the season was stopped.
The Flyers had won nine of their last 10 games and moved into second place in the Metropolitan Division when the season was paused. They have 13 regular-season games left.
Provorov called the stoppage “out of our control” and said it was “disappointing because the team was playing so well."
"We finally got on a roll and we were playing our best hockey, probably the best hockey in the four seasons I’ve been here. It was really exciting and I think everyone is trying to stay in shape and stay positive, and when the season continues, try to get back to the same level we were.”
As for his billet family, Provorov said the members usually attend three to five Flyers games each season. He also stays with them during Christmas breaks in the schedule