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NHL greats stick it to the virus and the streets

On Monday, April 22, NHL fans were privileged with an interview between one of the greatest players currently in the game, Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, and the greatest to ever lace them up in retired legend Wayne Gretzky. The two were given the opportunity to ask the other a question, and Ovechkin’s to Gretzky came in the form of fighting boredom; how would he stay in shape during the pandemic?

“I always tried to do the closest thing to playing hockey,” Gretzky said. “I probably would have found a pair of rollerblades or in-line skates, and I would’ve been skating around flat property around the neighborhood as much as I can. Because your hands and your shot and stickhandling, that is never going to go away, but one of the things you lose quickly, if you are not skating every day, is that skating stride. So, if I was a player of today’s generation and we were locked out, I would try to find places to rollerblade as much as possible.”

The legend is not the only star keeping in shape, as social media has been filled with players posting videos of themselves performing tricks on rollerblades themselves. The uptick in players purchasing inline skates has actually led to a shortage in supply in certain places, showing that certain businesses are managing to benefit from the virus. 

Ovechkin jokingly spoke about the situation and that an unnamed teammate wanted to get a pair, but was unable to find them anywhere, which proceeded to lead the captain to laugh as he already had a pair of his own. Some players’ agents have been tasked with keeping an eye out for stores resupplying with the skates in an effort to help their players stay in shape and stay viable for when league operations are able to resume.

To put this in perspective, according to an information release by Bauer, 250,000 consumers have searched for roller skates on their website since March 1, resulting in a 723% uptick in traffic on any of their merchandise related to in-line skates. The company additionally announced it would be shipping out reserve pairs to its top-level athletes, including Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak and Chicago Blackhawks’ right wing Patrick Kane, continuing to show the dedication all parties have to the game of hockey.

With the regular season on hold and regular rules thrown out the window for players’ training regiments, the players are solely responsible for their conditioning and maintenance of their bodies as the season could theoretically resume at any point, even though that is heavily unlikely. The timing of the virus, coming at the end of winter as opposed to the beginning, removes any advantage northernmost players might have had in staying in shape by skating on frozen ponds and lakes.

As it stands currently, only a handful of players in the league have access to professional ice, and those that do tend to be those that are injured and need the ice time for rehabilitation sake, such as Columbus Blues defenseman Seth Jones, who is continuing to rehab from ankle surgery he had in February.

Though some players have shown themselves completing bodyweight workouts, Peloton bike races, and other home lifting exercises, the league-wide consensus says that while ice hockey is out, inline skating is in.

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