ARIZONA COYOTES

Arizona Coyotes get time for hobbies, family with season on hold

Apr 3, 2020, 5:58 AM | Updated: 8:46 am
Derek Stepan #21 of the Arizona Coyotes skates out onto the ice before the NHL game against the Tam...
Derek Stepan #21 of the Arizona Coyotes skates out onto the ice before the NHL game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Gila River Arena on February 22, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Lightning 7-3. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona Coyotes forward Derek Stepan is still playing hockey, albeit against different competition. He and his son have a seven-game series going in the driveway, Stepan said Thursday.

“I think I’ve gotten a couple slashes to the shins,” Stepan said. “No calls, I let it slide. But that’s the way it works.”

Like most of the world, Coyotes players and staff have their lives confined mostly to their homes while the coronavirus outbreak has put the NHL season on pause. To the extent that they can, they’re still working. But there’s also been more down time than usual.

“The nicest part, [I have] almost a two-year-old daughter now,” general manager John Chayka said. “I’m definitely getting more family time, whether it’s carved time or not. She likes to just run in and interrupt stuff, but I’m happy sometimes when she interrupts me.”

Chayka also said he’s been reading more, and using this time to learn about what’s going on with the coronavirus.

“I’ve spent a lot of time sharpening some of my data analysis skills, kind of trying to create some of my own models in terms of what this outbreak looks like,” he said. “Some people have different approaches to cope. They want to just set it aside, not turn on the news. For me, I want to know more.”

Tocchet has taken up rollerblading, something he did 20 years ago and says he’ll continue to do even after the pandemic passes because he enjoys it. He also works out in his garage.

“It kind of breaks up the day for me,” Tocchet said in a video call on Wednesday. “I watch news like everybody. I try not to watch it too much because I find myself glued to the news channel.”

But apparently, for Tocchet, the return to rollerblading hasn’t come without its bumps:

Of course, there’s the infamous new show Tiger King. Former Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette recommended to Tocchet that he watch that show, Tocchet said, and Stepan also said he’s watched it with his wife and got through the whole series in two days. Tocchet also has watched the show Ozark.

That isn’t to say the Coyotes aren’t working, however.

Players have been staying in shape at home with workout plans tailored to each individual. The Coyotes staff even safely delivered workout equipment to the homes of players who are still in Arizona — which is most of the team, according to Chayka. The general manager is still keeping in touch with staff and running hockey operations to the extent possible, while Tocchet is talking to coaches and evaluating the season.

“I took my computer out about four days ago and I started watching video again, trying to get my brain wrapped around a few things,” Tocchet said. “And actually, in a few days, the coaches are going to get together via Zoom. And we have questions we’re going to ask each other. What happened this year? What could we have done better? How can we be better coaches? What can we do better in practice? What happened the last 6-7 weeks?

“And then me and John will probably talk to the players next week individually. I think that’s something that we want to do and see what’s in their head, their mind, how they can improve. I think this is a good exercise for our organization because it keeps your mind going. It keeps the juices going.”

But of course, with no hockey to play, the team sounds like it’s a lot less busy than usual. Tocchet said he’s thinking of taking an online course in some subject. He’s also trying to keep busy during the day.

As for what he misses most about what was normal life?

“Just your friends and people in general, the contact with them, the day-to-day stuff,” Tocchet said. “Even just walking to Starbucks, I know some of the people that serve, the baristas that I know. … And then obviously the players, I miss the players. You miss the coaches and the organization. And there’s some people that you talk to on the phone a lot and not getting to see them. I think it’s contact with people that I’m going to miss, and honestly my routine. Just getting back into the routine of you’re at the rink at eight o’clock, you have meetings.

“I think we won’t take that for granted. I know I won’t take that for granted.”

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