BostonBruins.com - Normalcy is quite hard to find these days. But Joakim Nordstrom gave it his best shot.
Back in late March, roughly two weeks into the NHL's pause, the Bruins winger, his girlfriend Hanna and Chihuahua Tyson returned to their native Sweden where even the most basic day-to-day tasks became far less stressful in the midst of a global pandemic.
"It's a little bit easier to be in a house than in an apartment high-rise with a dog and no balcony. Going up and down the elevator and running into people just [so the dog could use the bathroom] - it was good to go home and just open up the door and let him out on the yard," Nordstrom explained on Tuesday morning during a media conference call.
The trek across the Atlantic also made it easier to see family and work out with a trainer, though Nordstrom made sure to avoid Stockholm, the highly populated Swedish capital which continued to operate freely under the nation's loose COVID-19 restrictions.
"It's different for sure…I went into the city once and it was like a different world coming from Boston," said Nordstrom. "Here you walk the sidewalk and you're meeting someone else and really keeping the distances, you're almost walking out into the street to stay apart.
"Back home, I was a little frustrated that people didn't really care about the whole social distancing downtown. We tried to stay away from the city as much as possible and being out in the house almost in the countryside.
"I like it more the way it has been here, at least the respect the people have shown the pandemic and everyone else."
Video: Nordstrom talks return from Sweden, looks to camp
Nordstrom is now back at his Boston apartment, returning about a week ago to begin preparations for training camp, which is currently slated to open on July 10. The B's fourth liner has yet to return to the ice as he rides out a 14-day quarantine and awaits the results of his fourth and final COVID-19 test.
His first three tests have been negative and if he returns a fourth negative, he expects to hit the ice with his teammates on Monday at Warrior Ice Arena.
"Not really that nervous," said Nordstrom. "I have zero symptoms, so I would be surprised if I would test positive. The testing is every third day. You go in and there's a saliva test and you ship it out and then the day after you complete the test you get an email with the result."
While rinks remained open in Sweden, Nordstrom did not skate during his time at home. A last-minute decision to book a flight from Boston as travel restrictions tightened at the start of the pandemic forced him to leave his equipment at home. But, despite nearly four months away from the rink, Nordstrom believes he has put himself in the best position possible given his resources.
"Being inside or being away from normal gym equipment, obviously it's not a perfect world," said Nordstrom. "But I've been working out like I would in the summer for the past two months. I put myself in a good position, in a good spot, so I don't think two weeks [in quarantine] I'm gonna lose too much on that.
"I can still go out and run, I have a bike here in my apartment and I have some weights in the back of my car. I can do a little bit, but it is what it is. It could be way worse."
The physical hurdles that every player is facing are, perhaps, matched by the mental challenges that surround the unknowns of the season's resumption. Players still do not know for sure the start dates for camp and games, the length of time players may have to spend away from their family, or the potential risks and long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection.
"What I can do is trust that our team, the Boston Bruins, and the NHLPA and the league and all the doctors are taking all the precautions and making sure that we're gonna be as safe as possible," said Nordstrom. "Of course, I worry, but you can worry all you want, you don't know what the future is gonna be. I just put my faith into the doctors.
"Our team is full of professionals, so I trust that everyone has done all they could to prepare, whether it's been skating or going to the gym or just doing workouts outdoors…I don't think it's any different for us than other teams."
Rested and Recharged
Nordstrom's second season in Black & Gold was not nearly as smooth as his first. After playing 70 games in 2018-19, the winger suited up for just 48 this season (with 4 goals and 3 assists) due to a bevy of ailments that included a back injury, as well as an allergy/infection that sidelined him on more than one occasion. As such, one positive that has come out of the NHL's four-month pause is his ability to rest and recharge ahead of the postseason.
"It was a tough season for me mentally with those setbacks. Even last summer, I had my foot in a cast all summer so I couldn't work out, I couldn't prepare really for this season," said Nordstrom, who was injured after blocking a shot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
"It just felt like you couldn't see the horizon. There was always something else. I got the foot out of the cast and I hurt my back. There was an infection and then something else, something else. I'm not gonna lie, it was tough mentally.
"Obviously, you don't want this to happen, the pandemic or anything - if I could pick, 100 percent I would keep going and play the season…[but] it was kind of nice to go home a little bit and regroup and recharge.
"I feel now mentally I'm in a better state than I was in February."
Video: BOS@NJD: Nordstrom stabs at puck, puts it home
An Uncertain Future
Nordstrom is an unrestricted free agent after the season and acknowledged that a significant level of uncertainty remains when it comes to the future of his career. The 28-year-old has become a staple of Boston's fourth line over the last two seasons, during which he has contributed 11 goals and 19 points in 118 games. He also added 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in 23 postseason contests last spring.
"That's definitely something that's crossed my mind," said Nordstrom, who spent the first five seasons of his career split between Chicago and Carolina. "If we get to play now that's also a positive for me in terms of putting myself in a better position for free agency or what happens next for next year. It's a little bit different than years in the past. But this is probably the new normal."