With lots of free time, Flyers center Kevin Hayes has been working out at home in Boston, has rediscovered his Xbox skills, and has started cooking for the first time in his life -- making eggplant parmigiana, chicken tips, and a turkey with veggies.
But he misses hockey. Misses his teammates. Misses the adrenaline rush that the Flyers had provided by storming to nine wins in their last 10 games before the coronavirus outbreak suspended the season March 12.
“Just like everyone else has been saying, it’s obviously a lot bigger than hockey,” Hayes said in a conference call Thursday. “No matter how much anyone in the league says they miss the game, it’s a lot more important to figure out what’s going on in society right now and get that handled before we get back.
“It’s crazy. This situation has never happened before. I miss going to the rink every day and seeing the guys, seeing the coaches, playing against other teams and playing in front of our fans.”
The Flyers (41-21-7) had climbed to within one point of first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division. Now, Hayes realizes, the season is in jeopardy.
“I think everyone is a little concerned about that,” he said when asked about the possibility of the season’s not resuming. “It sucks because you play this game, you build friendships, you build memories, you build moments where you want to go for the Stanley Cup. I felt our team had come together in a great way. We were really playing for one another and everybody was buying into the system.
“And now there’s a possibility that we’ll never see the outcome of that,” he added. “... I assume we’re going to be this good all the time, but who knows if we’ll have this feeling again?”
Hayes, who has 23 goals in 69 games, has been working out with a Tom Brady program all season and said he has “felt a lot more pliable. I kind of set the groundwork this summer. It’s up to me as an athlete to stick with it, even though it might be tedious.”
He credited a time-consuming stretching program, eating the right things, and getting enough sleep with helping him play every game.
Asked if it would be difficult for the team to pick up the momentum it had built if the season resumes, Hayes said, “We were definitely feeling ourselves. We had some good swag, we had some good confidence. We weren’t overconfident. I thought our leadership set a standard.
"It’s a weird dynamic. I think everyone in our team brings a leadership into that locker room, whether it’s an older guy or a younger guy. I think everybody quietly bought into our system, and if in a couple months we go back to it and we have to jump into the playoffs, I’m pretty confident that we have some older veterans who will make sure everyone is back to business quickly.”
The 27-year-old center spent five seasons with the New York Rangers and said it was difficult to see the city become the epicenter of the coronavirus.
“I think people kind of took it lightly in the beginning and weren’t following the right procedures. It sucks to see,” he said.
Hayes called New York “one of the best places in the world. It’s horrible at what’s going on there."
His parents, who are both cancer survivors, are doing well, he said, along with his brother and pregnant sister. Hayes said that he lives within 15 minutes of all his family members and that his sister is “the queen of making sure everyone is doing the right thing. She’s not taking any risks.”
As for livening up the locker room this season, Hayes said the leadership group -- he mentioned Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Sean Couturier -- was intact when he joined the Flyers, and he was “cognizant of how loud to be or how much to talk. I didn’t want to step on any toes.”
Hayes said he followed the veterans’ lead because “it’s been their team for a while.” After two weeks, his lively personality started to come out.
“They were probably annoyed with me in the beginning with how much I talked and kind of joked around,” he said. “I think they kind of liked it. I still think they like it, so it’s working.”
He said it was an easy organization to join “and kind of feel great about yourself” because the players, staff, and the behind-the-scenes workers are so accommodating.