Kevin Hayes said he's doing his best to keep in touch with his Philadelphia Flyers teammates while the NHL season is paused due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
"We have a Snapchat group and we have a team text message group that's pretty much regularly going," the Flyers center said recently. "I send something every day to kind of check in with guys and see if they want to play Xbox."
Sharing funny photos and "Call of Duty" video game sessions with teammates are just some of the ways Hayes has stayed busy and further rooted himself in the Flyers leadership group since the season was paused March 12.
It's been a season-long growth in the leadership area for Hayes, who signed a seven-year contract with an average annual value of $7.14 million with Philadelphia on June 19.
Hayes, who is an alternate captain, knew he wanted to become a big part of his new hockey home when he signed but wasn't quite sure how to insert his personality.
A season-opening trip to Europe for the 2019 NHL Global Series helped everyone get to know each other better and made Hayes more comfortable.
"It probably took about two weeks," he said. "They were annoyed with me in the beginning with how much I talked, how much I joked around. But I think they liked it. I still think they like it, so I think it's working."
Forward James van Riemsdyk, who grew up playing hockey with Hayes' older brother, former NHL forward Jimmy Hayes, said Kevin's big personality has been a positive for the Flyers.
"That was something that we needed, having that kind of character who kind of brings that life to things," van Riemsdyk said. "There's never a dull or quiet moment when you're hanging around with him, and that's something our locker room needed on a day-to-day basis. He's the straw that stirs the drink in the sense of a lot of that stuff. It's been perfect."
Some of that stirring included a comical roll call as his teammates took the ice for warmups, from an exaggerated Boston-accented "Cah-Tah Haht" for goalie Carter Hart to "Tiki Bar" for forward Travis Konecny, "Young Beezer in the cut" for rookie forward Joel Farabee, and "Steadzo Glensky" for defenseman Matt Niskanen.
"I have my personality and I think I'm a very positive guy, I care about making people feel good about themselves," Hayes said. "I remember when I talked to (Flyers general mananger) Chuck (Fletcher) when I signed, he wanted me to be myself. This isn't the exact words, but it was, 'We invested in you, we'd like you to invest in us.' It's been easy. ... It's an easy organization to enter and feel great about yourself. Everyone's trying to get the best out of you and I feel like that's what I try to do with the guys. I try to enter the arena every day pretty happy."
Now he's trying to keep everyone happy from afar. Hayes is in his hometown of Boston, where he can be near his parents, each of whom has survived cancer and considered in the high-risk category for coronavirus, and his four siblings.
"Our whole family ... they're probably within 15 minutes of each other," he said. "Everyone's doing well. My sister (Justine) is pregnant, so she's kind of the queen of making sure everyone's doing the right things. She's not taking any risks. My mom and dad, they're pretty carefree people, but I think they've realized what they need to do. They're healthy and they're quarantining themselves. We've kind of only seen each other. So far so good for them."
When he's not keeping up with his family or teammates, Hayes said he's been able to work out on a Peloton at his apartment and has access to a friend's home gym.
Video: PHI@WSH: Hayes cleans up in front to give Flyers lead
He said he's also learning to cook.
"We made eggplant parm and chicken tips last night, and then turkey with veggies the other night," he said.
The video games, text messages and Snapchats keep going around, with the hope that the closeness the Flyers displayed on the ice can return if the season resumes.
Hayes has played an important role in the Flyers' rise to within one point of the first-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. He slotted in as the second-line center behind Sean Couturier and is fifth on the Flyers with 41 points (23 goals, 18 assists) in 69 games. He's also been a big part of an improved penalty kill that is 11th in the NHL at 81.8 percent after it was 26th (78.8 percent) last season, and his four shorthanded goals are tied for the NHL lead.
He said he hopes his work on and off the ice to keep the Flyers a unified group will help if the season continues.
"You build friendships, you build memories, you build moments where you want to go for the Stanley Cup," Hayes said. "I felt as if our team had come together in a great way, we were really playing for one another, everyone was buying into the system [coach Alain Vigneault] put together. ... I think if in a couple months we go back to it, if it's up in the playoffs, I'm pretty confident that we have some older veterans that will make sure everyone's back to business pretty quickly."