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WHAT'S NEXT?

Giordano joins some fellow Pacific Division captains and gives his thoughts on potential options for season and playoffs

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

None of us really have a choice in the matter. 

But suppose, for a second, you did. 

Think of anyone in the world - real or imagined - you'd like to be quarantined with and why. It's the usual, desert-island type fare we amuse ourselves with, but is now the reality we live in. 

Now think of the person you'd least want to shack up with. 

Oh, boy.

For Flames captain Mark Giordano, the answer is easy when it comes to his 22 teammates. 

"David Rittich," the skipper teased during a video conference Friday with fellow Pacific Division all-stars Connor McDavid, Bo Horvat and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. "He crushes a lot of (Coke), a lot of pop, so I'd have to load up for him; and half the time he's yelling at me on the ice, trying to say things to me and I have no idea what he's saying."

If there's one thing we know about hockey players, they'll never pass up a dig. 

And, hey, some levity is never a bad thing. 

 

 

The players - and all of us here in Calgary, Canada, the U.S., and across the world - are facing an unparalleled global health crisis. Businesses, livelihoods and, yes, even the National Hockey League, are all shuttered in an effort to contain the deadly 
COVID-19 virus and bring strength back to the community. 

From a hockey perspective, Giordano and the roughly 700 other finely-tuned athletes that make up this great league are facing similar mental and physical challenges, and changes to their routine. 

With the sport "pausing" abruptly on March 12, and with players ordered to self-quarantine through at least April 4, the uncertainty has forced everyone to find new and creative ways to keep their mind sharp and to stay in shape, not knowing when, how, or even if the season will continue.

Like many players, the captain relies heavily on team facilities to keep the body in peak form during the season. 

"We're so used to having that resource at the rink," Giordano said. "So, I've been doing a lot of body weight stuff when it comes to my strength; a lot of push-ups and old-school exercises. As long as you put in a good half-hour to an hour every day …  even with simple body weight exercises, for us, (it helps).

"The main thing is we want to be on the ice. That's the part that sucks right now. … It's hard to motivate yourself some days, but you try to do it early in the morning and get it over with."

While public health and support for our frontline workers remains at the forefront for the captain, he can't but wonder what 'could be,' considering the run the Flames were on prior to the pause. 

In the weeks leading up, he was adamant the team was actually in a better spot this year than last.

 

 

The Flames were playing some of their best hockey at the time, winning three of four and going 6-3-1 in their last 10, moving them back into a divisional playoff spot and potentially meeting the Oilers in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

With all the adversity the team faced this year, the battle, heart and character they showed to stay in the fight and challenge - again - at the top of the standings, Giordano wants nothing more than to see this through to the end.

"I do think, if we get going again, this is going to be one of the best playoffs ever," he said. "Every team is going to have all their guys back healthy and ready to go, so you're going to see the best version of every team."

The NHL has tossed around a couple of ideas of how that could happen, with the goal of awarding the Stanley Cup in a fair and competitive manner. 

But, so much of that is out of their control. 

 

Video: Giordano speaks to the media on NHL video call

 

Re-starting the season is - of course - everyone's hope, but it's entirely dependent on when the pandemic slows and local, state/provincial and federal authorities are confident regular business can then resume safely. 

So, does the regular season continue at all at this point? Is using points percentage a fair and equitable way to establish and then seed the 16 playoff teams?

Hockey in July? August, even?! 

Every option is currently on the table, but Giordano, in particular, has a preference.

"I've thought a lot about this," he said. "In a perfect world we'd like to fit in the rest of the regular season, but realistically, I don't think we'll have the time.

"But you can't eliminate teams based on points percentage, I don't think.

"I like the idea of going 12 and 12 in each conference. More teams get in this year. Maybe a couple byes at the top.

"But who knows? We'll see how long this goes."

It's a fascinating idea - one that certainly adds intrigue and accomplishes the goal of maintaining credibility with a competitive, months-long tournament. 

But, for now, all we can do is guess. Until such time the players are recalled and a schedule is in place, physical (not social) distancing is the new norm. 

"There are some ridiculous pictures and texts going on," Giordano laughed of the team's group chat. "Zac Rinaldo and big Looch are the two that get the chat going every day. Once one guy starts, it never stops and your phone buzzes all day. I've had trouble keeping my phone alive because it's going off the entire time."

Even during this difficult time, it's healthy to smile, laugh it up, and trade barbs with your pals.

Remember, some levity is never a bad thing. 

"It's cool that we have this technology, FaceTime and all that, so we can all stay connected. … These are weird times, but at least we have that."

 

Check another interview Flames TV did with Gio Thursday

Video: The captain on what's been a surreal few weeks

 

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