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Red Wings' Blashill: 'We're planning for anything that can happen'

So far no one on team has needed to be tested for COVID-19

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

As Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Thursday, we're in unprecedented times.

Everyone has a routine they follow and that is very true of hockey players and coaches, especially during the season.

But now, all of that is out the window as the entire planet struggles to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"It's been really weird," Blashill said in a telephone interview. "When I first got back from Washington, D.C., I woke up the next day and almost didn't know what to do. I think the end of the year is always hard for coaches no matter what because you go from going 100 miles an hour to zero wherever your season ends. Usually you see the end in sight or you're in the playoffs, you're into a series and you know it might end. No matter what, it's always abrupt. This was exceptionally abrupt."

Blashill said they've kind of been in a holding pattern as they waited to see whether the season would resume and if so, how soon.

As the news changed and the Centers for Disease Control recommended against events of more than 50 people for at least eight weeks, things have shifted a bit.

"Now it's kind of moved into trying to be productive from a work standpoint, trying to figure out how we can best utilize this time from a work standpoint," Blashill said. "I would also say trying to best utilize this time from a personal standpoint, both things that you normally don't get a chance to do, like get things fixed around the house, which by the way, I'm not very good at, and two, spending time with my kids that I would normally never get this opportunity to do. So it is a weird time for us."

Despite the unknown, the Wings are making plans for whatever the league may eventually decide.

"We're planning for anything that can happen," Blashill said. "We have to be prepared that if at any point, the NHL says to us that we're going to resume, we have to be prepared for that. So I think having a skeleton in place of how we would attack those days of a potential mini-camp, we're doing that.

"The other thing that you get the opportunity to do and you always do this more at the end of the year, but utilizing this time to review the season less the 11 games or so that we didn't play. So kind of going into starting the process of going into that extensive review without knowing whether we'll get a chance to finish the year."

Blashill said to his knowledge, none of the players have met any of the requirements to be tested so none has been tested for COVID-19.

There was some concern as the Wings played at Little Caesars Arena the night after the Pistons hosted the Utah Jazz as Jazz center Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive. Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell also tested positive.

"We have separate spaces although they're somewhat close to each other," Blashill said. "But we're never there on the same days. We might be leaving as some of the Pistons staff are coming to the rink but I haven't run across a Detroit Pistons coach or player in my time of going back and forth from my office to our parking area. So to say we come in contact with each other would be false. To say we come in contact with some of the shared spaces, there would be some truth to that.

"The Pistons players don't park in the same spaces we park but it would be more the areas that we walk towards our parking garage that's shared with some Pistons staff. There would be some mutual space involved there. The other thing I'd say if our visiting teams share a weight room with the Pistons. So on the night we're playing, the visiting team has the weight room and the nights we're not, the Pistons use that weight room on game days. So there is some shared space, there is very little shared contact."

Obviously, the Wings who are Michigan natives have remained in the area but the rest have returned to their offseason homes.

"The NHL told players they could go to their respective homes to try to stay in a self-quarantine mode but go to their prospective homes across the globe and that's really what's happened," Blashill said. "Our players are all over the place, whether that be in the Czech Republic, United States, Canada, Sweden, wherever that may be. So, most of our players are either there or making their way there."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: A message from Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Zadina. ������

The players, who are all accustomed to practicing and working out together at Little Caesars Arena, have had to make adjustments.

"Our strength and conditioning coach, Rob Campbell, has put a plan in place for our players, if the season would potentially resume, a plan in place for the next couple weeks, any kind of strength and conditioning plan, there's different segments of it, and the first segment now would be a little bit of the rest that you would normally go through and then lead into a segment where it would be ramped up a little bit," Blashill said. "What we had to do is kind of give them guidelines of what they can do at home without lots of weights and we tried to have communication with players, what's available to you.

"Honestly in the last week or so, it's been way more of a let's wait and see where this thing goes and if anything, use this week to kind of have some of that healing that you need to do at the end of the year, let's do some of that now and let's see where this thing goes."

For a player like defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who is still recovering from back surgery, he remains under the watchful eye of the Wings training staff.

"He's in rehab," Blashill said. "He'll continue to do the rehab with the direction of our medical staff. Where that is just depends on where we proceed from here. Right now he's been able to continue to do the rehab at LCA and we've had as minimal people there are possible to do the rehab with him."

No hockey also means no chance for Detroit's prospects to further their development, either in the American Hockey League, junior hockey or over in Europe.

"Certainly, there's some potential for development to have been stalled," Blashill said. "There was in GR a potential playoff run, and there's development involved in that. When you go through experiences in life, you have the opportunity to grow. You don't always. It's up to you a little bit but you have the opportunity to grow, both from good and bad experiences. Right now there's no day to day experience, period. So for kids in college, for kids in pro, there isn't that developmental opportunity.

"For anybody whose season is now over, and certainly that's the case in college hockey, that's the case in the USHL now, that's the case in college sports, period, and that sucks. For them not to be able to go through those experiences and those journeys, some of them for the last time, is perspectively speaking heartbreaking. And it's too bad for those kids."

But Blashill still believes there is something to be gained through this.

"I do think there's a huge -- out of this situation you can gain huge perspective. I think a lot that you should cherish the day, because you never know what tomorrow brings. Anybody, when you're young, you never believe that. When you've lived through something like this, you might be more apt to believe it. You might be more apt to have a greater perspective to enjoy the day, to maximize the day, to win the day. I think that in itself can be a huge thing for those that recognize that change in perception. I would say the bigger thing for me is life is about experiences. Life's about going through journeys together."

For the time being, Blashill is home will his wife, Erica, and their three children, Teddy, Josie and Owen.

All three kids are missing both being in school and playing hockey.

"My father-in-law just said to me, you and his daughter, my wife Erica, must be going through withdrawal, not going to the rink," Blashill said. "Our lives are fortunately or unfortunately, centered around rinks. All winter long my wife is bringing one of my three kids to some rink pretty much every single day. I think to not have any activities at all to do, is a really weird thing for a parent, a really weird thing for a kid. We're trying to keep up with the social distancing. There just isn't much to do. It's been a real experience.

"We're like everybody else. We'd love to see this virus spread eliminated and go back to normal life but this is something none of us have ever experienced in our lives. Unless you've probably lived through a world war, this is nothing like we've ever seen. It's just different times. Not going to rinks is weird. Having our kids around us all the time, I think they were excited on Day 1 and I don't think they're as excited now to have dad home every day. It's a little different.

"It's just our normal for right now."

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