There's some commotion going at Johnny Boychuk's house as he's asked how he's passing the time in quarantine. His two dogs are barking because they think someone is at the door, but it's really just his daughter Zoey knocking on the floor.
Boychuk pauses and asks his three kids and two dogs to settle down before returning to the phone call at hand.
"It's actually pretty easy to pass time when you have three kids," Boychuk said.
The Islanders defenseman has quickly gone from team dad, to stay-at-home dad, helping out with cooking, cleaning and schoolwork every day from his offseason house in Edmonton. It's a pretty steady routine: cook breakfast in the morning, help get the girls set up for online classes, work out with his son, make lunch, more school, family walk and dinner. He gets a little break at the end of the day to watch movies, relax, and catch up with family, friends and teammates. On Tuesday, that included a Zoom call with Dennis Seidenberg and a 2011 Bruins reunion.
"We're doing the same thing until Saturday and Sunday," Boychuk said. "You don't have school, but you have to keep the kids busy."
It didn't take Boychuk long to return to Alberta after the NHL paused the season. Boychuk was at Milan Lucic's house for dinner in Calgary the night the NBA paused their season, and he instinctively knew the NHL would follow suit. After returning to Long Island the next day with the team, Boychuk moved swiftly to relocate his family back to Edmonton. He figured it was easier to social distance in Northern Alberta, which still had plenty of snow on the ground when he arrived - and kept accumulating in April.
"We figured it was probably a little bit safer," Boychuk said. "I started checking the Nassau maps for the cases and it was like a Christmas tree. It's just crazy, scary actually."
Taking care of his family was priority number one, but Boychuk has a charitable streak in him and wanted to make sure he was doing something to help his community back in New York. His teammates felt the same way, which is why the Isles pooled some money together to donate 3,500 N95 masks to Northwell Health hospitals earlier this month.
"There was a message on the group chat and you could say how much you wanted to donate," Boychuk said. "Everyone is sitting around and saying what can I actually do to help? Everyone was like let's donate some money so we they can have some supplies at least. Everyone was more than happy to try to help out."
Boychuk has admired the healthcare workers on the front lines in New York. His neighbor's daughter (on Long Island) works at Mt. Sinai in Manhattan and Boychuk was happy to see that New Yorkers are rallying around their healthcare workers.
"That's pretty amazing that when they get off work and everyone is cheering them," Boychuk said. "They deserve that and they are all heroes."
All of the Islanders are working to stay in shape during the NHL pause and Boychuk is no different. There's been a noticeable spike in team Peloton usage, but Boychuk may have one of the best home gym setups on the team, both on the Island and in Edmonton.
"In New York I have a bunch of weights, an elliptical and a water rower," Boychuk said. "Here [Edmonton] I have a bike, a water rower and some weights as well. Every day I'm in there for at least an hour and a half to two hours… I have a good setup in both places where I can stay in shape and keep busy as well."
Boychuk is keeping fit for whenever the league resumes, and while he's eager to play again, he recognizes that public safety supersedes hockey. If that means social distancing for a little longer, so be it.
"We're just hoping that something miraculously happens quickly so we can get back on the ice and play, but first and foremost is everyone's health and safety," Boychuk said. "Before that happens, you can't worry about hockey, you have to worry about staying in shape, being healthy and social distancing."
While there's a lot of talk about playing in empty arenas to keep up social distancing measures, Boychuk is also thinking about the consequences of being in close contact with other players on the ice.
"What are you supposed to say when you get hit? Two minutes for not social distancing?" he said with a laugh.
If there's a positive to the time off, it's helped Boychuk's eye continue to heal. The defenseman suffered a scary cut to his eyelid on March 3 against Montreal, a wound that took 90 stitches to sew up. Amazingly, Boychuk was back practicing with the team a week later in Vancouver, pushing for a return, but he said his eye is better for having allowed extra time to heal.
"It looks really good," Boychuk said. "It's been over a month, so it's had time to heal. It's been getting better and better. This time has helped and I'm sure it has helped some other guys who have injuries as well."
The NHL extended its self-quarantine period to April 30 and New York State has directed all non-essential workers to work from home until May 15, so Boychuk can expect to keep his new routine a little longer. All things considered, he's in good health and good spirits - and with a bustling household, he'll certainly be busy until hockey resumes.