The Flyers, at this point, are not testing players and staff for coronavirus, a team spokesperson told colleague Sam Carchidi on Wednesday. In a week filled with some pretty bleak news, we’ll count that as a victory.
The NHL did have its first positive test when an unnamed Ottawa Senators player was found to have COVID-19. It’s natural to expect more as testing becomes more widespread, so don’t let it flatten you like a Derek Grant bodycheck.
Speaking of Grant, I was cleaning out the notebook the other day when I came across a casual conversation we had about one of his favorite hobbies.
— Ed Barkowitz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Derek Grant hails from Abbottsford, a suburb of Vancouver, in British Columbia. He’ll tell you the only thing better than putting a puck through the five-hole is pulling a massive sturgeon out of the Fraser River.
Two summers ago, Grant hauled one in that was nearly 8 1/2 feet and 450 pounds. Renowned Canadian bull rider Cody Snyder was among those who helped lasso the humongous species.
Another time, “I ended up fighting one for two hours,” Grant said. “Me and the fish were both pretty exhausted by the time we got to the shore. You basically have to tire them out until they give up.”
Grant wasn’t catching that night’s dinner. He was participating in fellow NHL player Andrew Ladd’s charity fishing tournament.
“We re-tag them, scan them and release them,” said Grant, the Flyers’ third-line center. “It’s cool to see the population grow or the size difference [of individual fish]. It’s a protected species.”
It’s difficult not to feel bad for Grant. He was acquired from Anaheim when Chuck Fletcher gave the Ducks a fourth-round pick and prospect Kyle Criscuolo at the trade deadline. In two weeks, Grant went from seventh place in the Pacific Division to knocking on first place in the Metropolitan.
“You don’t want to look too far ahead,” he said before the NHL season was put on ice by a worldwide pandemic, “but it’s something to be excited for. It’s always an honor to play in the playoffs. I haven’t been there in a couple years, but I’m excited to make a good push and get on a good run.”
Grant was in the middle of a career season (15 goals) and had five points in his seven games with the Flyers. He was playing alongside fellow grinder Tyler Pitlick. Both will be unrestricted free agents after the season ends, whenever that will be. Pitlick is 28. Grant will turn 30 next month.
“It’s always tough playing games every night when you’re so far out of it,” said Grant, whose only playoff experience was being on the wrong end of a sweep in 2018. “Being back in the hunt, on a hot team, it’s a lot of fun.”
It was a lot of fun. Grant is riding out the stoppage in Newport Beach, Calif., “basically just watching TV and movies, cooking and hanging out.” All he can do is wait to see what happens next. It’s something Grant has plenty of experience with from those days on the Fraser River.
“On average, we get about five or six in a [eight- or nine-hour] day,” he said. "So there’s a lot of time where you’re sitting there, hanging out waiting for one of the rods to go off.
“[But] once they go off, you move the boat around to try to follow them. Otherwise, they’ll take all the line right off your reel. Once you’re in a fight, it’s a process. I’ve seen two and even three on lines [at the same time]. They keep fighting before we can get the other rods back in the boat. It’s an adventure; that’s for sure.”
* I was leading all Flyers defensemen in plus-minus at the time of the stoppage with a +17.
* My four goals this season came against Carey Price, Frederik Andersen, Jaroslav Halak and Elvis Merzlikins.
* Kevin Hayes and I are the tallest players on the team at 6-foot-5.
Seen this clip of Gordie Howe just flattening some dude? Impressive, especially since he was supposedly 45 at the time.