Nick Foligno has a simple message for his Columbus Blue Jackets teammates about the 2019-20 NHL season, which is on pause due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
"This isn't done," the Columbus captain said on the latest episode of the NHL @TheRink podcast. "Until we're told otherwise, it's our job to continue to be ready and continue to prepare and keep that mindset."
When the NHL paused its season March 12, the Blue Jackets were tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
Foligno said it's hard to stay focused on the season when there are so many other concerns in the world now. Still, he's hopeful that his teammates will be motivated to continue what the Blue Jackets have done so far if and when the season resumes.
"We owe it to our fans to try to get back out there if we can," Foligno said. "Obviously in a safe environment and we're not going to do anything foolish with the recommendations of the health officials. But if we can get back out there we owe it to them because of the way they've supported us this year. … Those are the kind of conversations I'll continue with everybody until told otherwise and make sure we're ready to go. That's our job."
Right now, he has another job. Foligno joked about how he has gone from being the Blue Jackets captain in the heat of a playoff race to a janitor and part-time teacher in his home, filled with three kids and his wife, who is used to running the household.
"It's been hilarious just how you've now learned to co-parent," Foligno said. "A lot of times, let's be honest, my wife [Janelle], I mean, she's doing it on her own, so I come in and I ruin her schedule, I ruin the structure because I'm riling the kids up and just excited to be home because of the short time I am. Well, now I'm home, and you're starting to realize why she was getting so upset at what I was doing."
Foligno said his children, who are ages 6 and under, constantly are asking him if he has a game to play, or when his next game will be. That he doesn't is disappointing, but he's found a good aspect to it.
"I said to [Janelle] the other night when we were talking that this is something I want to look back on and appreciate, not be frustrated with how it went," Foligno said. "I want to appreciate the time that I got to spend with them even through such a horrific time in the world. This is something you can look at in a way and cherish it, time we get to spend together, which we always complain we don't get enough of during the year."
Video: CBJ@MIN: Foligno pots rebound off strange bounce
To stay in shape, Foligno goes to his basement and uses the custom gym he had built a few years ago. He said he put it in largely as a way to get in a workout on days off without having to go to Nationwide Arena. But now it's important in a way he never anticipated.
"It's actually worked out great for me in that regard, where you're able to get down there and actually have some of the weights you're used to having and keep that routine," he said. "That's so important. … That's why I feel for the players who are in apartments, condo style, that don't have the square feet that a home can provide you where you can get outside pretty easily."
Foligno said he and his teammates chat and even have group FaceTime sessions, which include a lot of talking over each other and finding a player or two to collectively chirp just to have some fun.
"You go from seeing these guys every single day to not at all, and it just feels so weird," Foligno said. "It's not just us. People that go to work every day and are told they can't come, their routines are all messed up. For us, we're all routine during the season; that's what we thrive on. To be able to see each other, make each other laugh and just have that camaraderie that you don't have when you're by yourself or quarantined with one or two other people, it can help at least weather this situation. I think it's helped a lot of guys."
Nothing will help more than getting back together in person, resuming the season and getting a chance to return to the playoffs. Foligno, like everybody else, doesn't know if or when that will happen, but he's staying ready and making sure his teammates do the same even though it's a challenging and unique situation.
"It's hard to do," he said. "It's easy to say on the phone and have this chat where it's rah-rah, but the reality is there are guys all over the place right now, and we're trying to figure out what's next. But I think the guys all realize the work that we've put in this year and everybody wants to see that through. I don't think anyone wants this season to end."
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