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Transcript: Kyle Clifford Media Call - May 13, 2020

by Staff Writer MapleLeafs /

Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford spoke with the media yesterdy afternoon.

Q (Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star): I was just curious about your feeling about all the chatter about the Return to Play committee, and how this return to play might actually take shape. What are you hearing and what are you feeling about what you're hearing about the Return to Play committee? 

KYLE CLIFFORD: I think the last little bit the hot trend has kind of been the 24-team playoff or 20 teams. I think the Return to Play committee has done a good job. There's a lot of unknowns out there still, and I think they're just trying to be best prepared for when we do get the green light to get going and what's the best way of doing that to keep the integrity of the Stanley Cup. I think just speaking with the guys on our team, there's a real strong appetite to get playing no matter the circumstances. And we look at our group and we like our chances. We know it's not going to be easy but, at the same time, there's an exciting group here and I think we just want to get back playing and obviously do it in a safe manner. I think the team's hungry to get playing and the fans are hungry for us to get back playing.

Q (Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star): You've been a guy who's been on two teams that have run that 16-game win gauntlet of four best-of-seven series. How do you think it will be perceived in history or even in the moment if it's something different than that? If it could be a different format, how do you look at that?

KYLE CLIFFORD: Obviously we're not dealing with ideal times. It's unfortunate that we weren't able to continue playing. I think that was the best decision for the safety of the players, the fans and communities. So, to answer your question, it's going to be different, but I think playing for a Stanley Cup is better than not playing for a Stanley Cup at all, regardless of the format.

Q (Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun): Can you just tell us where you are, how you are and what it's like with your three kids?

KYLE CLIFFORD: I'm up in Muskoka, Ontario, just outside of Gravenhurst. It's been a bit of an eye-opening experience being with the kids, day-in and day-out. I've always had an appreciation for what my wife does with the children, but that appreciation has definitely, definitely grown. I've really enjoyed the time with them. This is not a schedule that I'm used to, but it's just been a lot of fun. We've got a lot of mini stick games going on. We've even got them in the lake a few times. It's pretty cold but they were brave enough to get in. Just enjoying the family time that isn't always there. At this time of the year, usually you're in a playoff hunt or in the playoffs. I'm just really taking the time with the kids to enjoy it as much as possible. Other than that, we're all doing great, we're safe. I just hope everybody in Toronto is safe and doing well and just staying healthy. 

Q (Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun): People in your position, especially guys who haven't won before, it doesn't come around a lot that you have a chance to win one and it's very important obviously to have a shot at winning, as you say, no matter what the format is. 

KYLE CLIFFORD: You're still playing for the Stanley Cup, it's going to be a different format, I think there's no question in that, but it's the greatest feeling. Other than having your children born, it's definitely been my greatest experience in my life, and I've been fortunate enough to win two. It'll only make you hungrier to win another one and I know speaking with the guys on our team, we have a young team and they're hungry. They want it and they want it for the City of Toronto bad. It's been 50-something years since they've won. I don't think there'd be any greater feeling than to take it down those streets in Toronto for a parade. 

Q (Chris Johnston, Sportsnet): I'm wondering if things are able to go ahead here what you're anticipating will be the toughest aspect of getting yourself back ready to play in those playoffs. 

KYLE CLIFFORD: Yeah, I think obviously the Return to Play committee has spoken at length about having a mini training camp. Guys aren't allowed to skate right now so just a matter of getting back into game shape. I know we're all going to be on the same level playing field as far as guys haven't been skating. It's just a matter of being able to prevent injuries that might occur for, for some players being off the skates for about two months, two-and-a-half months. So just being prepared and obviously, I think the two teams that I've been on the medical staffs have been really, really good. They know what's best for the player so they're going to do a really good job of preparing them to compete to be in game shape just so there are no injuries and I think that's going to be the biggest challenge.

Q (Chris Johnston, Sportsnet): As a player in the final year of his contract, I'm just wondering how much the business of the sport has been on your mind during this time? Are you thinking about that?

KYLE CLIFFORD: Yeah, my job is to just stay ready for when we do get the call to play. Obviously, it is a contract year, it's the last year of my contract, but that's not my focus. My focus is to be ready to play and compete for a Stanley Cup when we do get back to playing. The rest of it will just take care of itself. 

Q (Stephen Whyno, Associated Press): What exactly would guys as players want in terms of families being in the quarantine bubble with you or some time off? Do you have an idea yet of what kind of personal family time you'd want if you do come back to play?

KYLE CLIFFORD: I don't really have an exact answer for that. I know Gary [Bettman] and the NHLPA are going to do what's best for the players and for the families. Obviously, I want my children to be safe, I want my wife to be safe and I know that's what everyone else is thinking too. I really don't have an answer for you, it's probably better geared towards the NHLPA or Gary, but I'm hoping that our families are around and able to enjoy the experience of playoffs with us. 

Q (Stephen Whyno, Associated Press): Is that something that would be important to you as a player if those folks on the committee ask you if you want some sort of family involvement in coming back? 

KYLE CLIFFORD: I think a lot of the guys have kids and wives and I definitely think that is a bit of a hot topic. If you're going to be drinking out of the Stanley Cup at the end of it all I would definitely like my family there. But, like I said, I think that's a better question for the NHLPA and Gary, they'll have a better answer for you. 

Q (Jackie Spiegel, Sporting News): What is your normal offseason regimen in terms of getting back into shape for the following season?

KYLE CLIFFORD: It's pretty much what I'm doing right now. I wake up in the morning, I have a coffee and then 30-40 minutes of stretching and then an hour to an hour-and-twenty minutes of working out. The time I've had, I've used it wisely. I've got to thank the strength and conditioning team over in Toronto. They've had constant communication with me to make sure I've got everything I need as far as nutrition, equipment, schedules and training programs. It's pretty much been the same now as it is in the summer for summer training. 

Q (Jackie Spiegel, Sporting News): What would be your comfort level in terms of getting back on the ice if, let's say, they jump right into a playoff scenario? What would be a timeframe for you to feel comfortable playing at that high intensity? 

KYLE CLIFFORD: It's tough to say at this time. It's kind of a hard question to answer because I don't think I've ever experienced being off the ice for two months. I think I'd have a better idea after my first week of that little mini training camp. I don't think it's going to take as long as most people are going to think, it's just more a matter of preventing injuries for guys. We don't want any soft tissue or hamstring injuries that are going to put guys out for next season. I think our medical staff will have the best answers for that and they'll be in constant communication with the players when and if there is a mini training camp going.  

Q (Josh Clipperton, Canadian Press): It's been suggested by more than one doctor or health official that full face shields could be a requirement for return to play, at least in some markets or hub cities. I'm wondering how you think that would go over with you guys.

KYLE CLIFFORD: It's going to be different if that's the case but, at the same time, if that's the road we're going to go down it's a matter of safety for the players. It just is what it is. They're not ideal times right now and we're going to have to do everything we can to maintain the safety level of the players, the coaches, the training staff, the referees, everybody that's going to be involved in putting this back together and getting going.

Q (Josh Clipperton, Canadian Press): As a guy who's not afraid to drop the gloves or mix it up, you play a physical game, would you ever think twice about that aspect of the game if the season was to return, especially if there is not yet a vaccine? 

KYLE CLIFFORD: Yeah, I don't really have an answer for that. I would imagine that if we're all playing in a game that there would be some sort of rapid-testing level, and all of the players involved in the game - and the coaches and the refs - would not have COVID. It's another one of those questions that I don't have the answer to right now. There's a lot of unknown and I wish I could give you more, but I just don't want to make something up that's not the right answer. 

Q (Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun): Just curious how much you've talked to your fellow players and how much you've talked about some of these issues that my colleagues have raised, and perhaps also with Sheldon Keefe or Kyle Dubas just to get an update on what's going on. 

KYLE CLIFFORD: Kyle's done an outstanding job. We usually get nightly emails on updates and he's held a few conference calls via Zoom for us to be in touch and for guys to communicate their concerns. Just players, we have group chats and things going on the side to raise some questions and concerns that we might have moving forward, and I think we're all in the same boat right now. We just don't have the answers for everything, and we wish we did. We're slowly trying to piece it back together and I definitely think we're starting to trend upwards with some right answers. We're not there yet but it's coming along. 

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