MONTREAL - Becoming a home owner isn't a small undertaking in the best of times, let alone during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Xavier Ouellet and his wife, Liz, are about to check that dream off their bucket list.
They're in the final stage of securing a home in Spring Lake, MI, a small community located in the western part of the state.
"We're planning on closing next week," confirmed Ouellet, who appeared in 12 games with the Canadiens this season and 39 with the AHL's Laval Rocket. "We're excited. It's our first house. We never really owned anything because we've been moving so much. It feels good to have a home base and somewhere to go back to in the summer with all our stuff there."
The Ouellets have actually been quarantining in Spring Lake since players were allowed to depart their individual NHL cities in mid-March following the pause.
They've been staying with Liz's aunt and uncle until ownership is transferred and the house is officially move-in ready.
So why did the Ouellets elect to purchase property in Michigan, and specifically in Ottawa County?
"We've always liked the area because it's close to the water. It's a short drive to Grand Haven and Lake Michigan, and we're also just 30 minutes away from Grand Rapids where a lot of our friends are," explained Ouellet. "Michigan is also where I met Liz when I was playing in the AHL for the Grand Rapids Griffins, so we have a real connection here. She's from Virginia, but she went to Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids and lived there for a long time. And she has family here, so we really wanted to make this our summer spot."
Waiting on the closing hasn't been easy, though, especially with the state being hit hard by COVID-19 with over 53,000 confirmed cases to date.
The 26-year-old defenseman, who found the home last summer, was concerned that might delay things. Fortunately, there haven't been any major hiccups in the process so far.
"It's been a little stressful this whole time. We were scared that everything would get pushed back, so it was a little nerve-wracking. But everything's kind of been working out, so we're pretty excited about that," mentioned Ouellet. "We're just counting down the days, but they seem to be kind of long right now since everything is still closed. We're ready for the move, though. We're ready for that to happen because we're looking forward to having our own space as a family."
Until that day arrives, the seven-year NHL veteran and former Detroit Red Wings blueliner is enjoying some extra quality time with his better half and their two-year-old daughter, Thea Marie, who was born in Michigan in July 2017.
They've been taking full advantage of the beautiful surroundings the region has to offer.
"The weather's been really good, so we spend a lot of time outside hiking in the woods and going to the water. I'm able to give my daughter my full attention. That's the positive that has come out of this," said Ouellet. "Right now I'm taking care of myself and my family, and making sure everyone is healthy. That's the priority."
He's also been training Monday through Friday with different home-based workouts and keeping close tabs on his nutrition as well.
"I've got a little bit of equipment here, so I try to stick to a schedule and stay ready," said Ouellet. "We're just pulling through this situation like everybody else."