In a way, the suspended NHL season has been a blessing for Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk.
It has given his broken finger time to heal and put him in a position to play if the season resumes.
It has also allowed him to spend time with his wife, Lauren, and their first child, Scarlett Everly, who was born May 2 in Minnesota – about seven weeks after the coronavirus outbreak stopped the season on March 12.
“It’s been incredible,” van Riemsdyk said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “The silver lining in all this stuff is all the extra time I’ve been able to spend at home and be here for all the little moments, and kind of just worry about being a dad, first and foremost.”
Van Riemsdyk, 31, was in the hospital room when his daughter was born. He and his family are staying with his in-laws in Minnesota while their almost-completed house is being built nearby.
“As everyone who has had kids knows, it’s a life-changing moment and something that’s hard to describe until you see her and meet her for the first time,” he said. “It’s been awesome. A bit sleep-deprived during the first couple weeks, but it’s been great to be home and enjoy all that.”
He said his in-laws and his parents — who drove 19 straight hours from Central New Jersey and then quarantined themselves for a while before being with their first grandchild — have been a big help with the baby.
As for hockey, van Riemsdyk, the Flyers’ players’ representative, is on the NHL’s return-to-play committee, trying to help form a plan for the season to resume safely.
No date has been set for a return.
“Things can be a little flexible with the schedule and timing of things,” he said.
Van Riemsdyk said a 24-team tournament is among many formats that have been discussed if the season resumes.
“It’s hard to say what the leader is, because things can change,” said van Riemsdyk, who has 19 goals and 40 points in 66 games. “Nothing is really certain. We’re trying to keep as many options open and hopefully come up with the vision. Honestly, first and foremost is the health and safety of everyone, and trying to find something that keeps the integrity and the competitiveness in our game."
Van Riemsdyk said the committee is focused on crowning a Stanley Cup champion this season, and he called the Cup the most famous trophy in sports.
“We know how important that is and how much pride we take as hockey players in that,” he said. "We want to come up with a format that respects that and keeps that integrity.”
Van Riemsdyk, who missed three games because of his finger injury, said he would have been able to play a couple weeks ago if the season had returned at that time. He said the finger was getting close to 100 percent.
During this break in the season, van Riemsdyk said he believes Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg are his only teammates who have been able to skate.
He said some skating facilities are “starting to loosen restrictions.” The NHL said a three-week training camp would be held before the season could resume.
“That’s going to be a key part for everyone, getting back safely on the ice and alleviating some injury risks,” said van Riemsdyk, who on Wednesday video-chatted with 9- and 11-year-old boys from a Media military family as part of the United Heroes League program.