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Structure, Balance, Family Time: Working From Home With John Chayka

Catching up with the Coyotes' President of Hockey Operations and General Manager

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

John Chayka still starts his shift at 6 a.m.

Though many things have changed since the NHL season was hit by the pause button on March 12, Chayka has stuck to his routine.

His days begin, continue, and end at home. There's no commute to Gila River Arena for the time being.

"Get up early and get a good workout in," he said, breaking down his first order of business. "We've got a good little home gym here, get a good sweat going, get feeling good."

"I've got some cardio equipment and right now I've also got a band system in place to go along with some dumbbells. I try and do more of a circuit type of training, more HIIT type of stuff."

Chayka, 30, keeps his workouts flowing by listening to podcasts. One of his favorites is Ben Greenfield, a podcast that focuses on fitness, nutrition, and training. "He talks about meditation, he talks a lot about sleep, he talks a lot about nutrition, so I listen to him a lot, especially in the morning, it gets your creative juices flowing."

"I think, you know, during this time, it's tough when there's a lot of unknown and you're watching the news a lot, but I think it's important to keep learning new things and keep expanding your knowledge, so I listen to a lot of different podcasts outside of hockey, I think that's important."

Once he's warmed to a sweat and finished working out, he takes a cold shower, something he swears by for the research backed to show its ability to increase circulation, generate a higher level of alertness, and strengthen the immune system, among other things.

Then he dresses - as if he's headed to the team offices.

"It just comes down to discipline," he said, "You want to have habits and you want to be ready to work. Making sure you're preparing your body and your mind to have a good, productive day, and that starts with the start of your day."

By the time he finishes breakfast, he's already getting calls from the East Coast, whether it be from Coyotes colleagues or executives from around the NHL.

"I try to have structure to my day," he said. "I don't think you can operate without a set calendar or without meetings in place, I try to structure my calls. But I also like to have flexibility. I don't like to make too many lists or be too rigid, I want to be able to have some creative time, abilities and free space to work on some things that I think of throughout the day, be flexible, that type of stuff."

Included is the 30 minutes of sun, before noon.

"It sets your body clock, your circadian rhythms," he said of the little bit of nature. "It's just for your internal clock, like saying 'Hey, I'm up, the sun's up, I'm ready to go, I've got energy'. "It's shown that when you do set it early like that, that when it's time to go to bed, your body's tired, you're ready to wind down and have a good sleep. So, it's pretty important to get sun before noon."

Like most of us, Chayka has had to adapt his official functions, which include monitoring a staff scattered all over the world, such as scouts in Europe, development coaches in Canada, and Assistants across the United States. Many have returned to their homes to be with family.

"I'll be honest, it feels like trade deadline day every day with the amount I'm on the phone," he said with a chuckle. "It's not only a work from home setup, but there's a lot going on in the world right now and people have some concerns and some fears, and the best way to deal with that I think is to communicate, and at times over-communicate. So, I've spent a lot of time on the phone over the last 10 days talking to staff."

It is a bit ironic, perhaps, that this time of pause demands more attention than ever to keep an organization together.

"People want to stay productive, they want to do things, and the only way to do that is to have instruction and understand what's going on at the league level," he said. "For me, it's about giving that direction and guidance for what they can prepare for. I'm constantly talking to the league, to our owner Alex Meruelo, and then relaying those messages and filtering them through our entire organization. It's been a full-time job, but it's been good."

While he may be further from his colleagues, he is closer to home, with his wife Kathryn and their daughter Capri, who turns two in July.

"That's probably the toughest part," he said of a more normal time. "You just want to spend a lot of time with them all the time, I've got a young daughter. The pro in this situation is that you don't have to go far to carve that time out. She's there."

"We typically set some time up after her nap where we'll go do something as a family, go out to our pool to go for a swim, go for a bike ride, something that I can do with her. It's nice to have that opportunity."

Chayka and his family have made a point of supporting small businesses in the Valley during this difficult time, often ordering delivery from local establishments for meals and groceries.

"We want to make sure that we're taking care of our community and doing the right thing, and right now that means staying inside and staying safe," he said. "We've been very compliant with staying inside and self-quarantining, and that's of the utmost importance right now. The better job we do right now, the faster we can get back to life as we know it. But for right now, the goal and focus needs to be on being safe."

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