MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota-born National Hockey Leaguers Zach Parise and Blake Wheeler are still working to find a new normal as the Coronavirus pandemic has all of professional sports shut down for the near future.
Parise and Wheeler joined Jamie Benn and Gabe Landeskog on a Zoom video chat Tuesday afternoon to talk about life away from hockey for the last few weeks. The NHL said Tuesday they’re extending the self-isolation period for players until at least April 15. That means no access to practice facilities or arenas continues.
Parise and Wheeler joked about having to keep themselves sane and their kids busy. Each have three children, Parise has twins and a 2-year-old.
“My 2-year-old gets up at about 5 in the morning so I get up with him and then wait for the other two to get up at 7,” Parise said. “The 2-year-old is a handful right now, he naps from 1-3 and that’s our time to take a breath. Other than that he’s full-time, he’s non-stop. He’s all over the place.”
Wheeler’s kids are 7, 4 and 2.
“We’re full-time teachers, nannies. It’s a full day, full-time job. I’m more tired now than I was a few weeks ago. Cooking, cleaning and trying to teach, and we’re keeping it together,” Wheeler, said. “My 7-year-old and my 4-year-old pretty much fight all day. It’s a battle.”
They also have to find a way to stay in shape, with no access to practice facilities and gyms closed. Parise says he has a sports court in his Twin Cities home, and recently purchased a bike to get his cardio work in. Wheeler, in his 12th NHL season and ninth with the Winnipeg Jets, built a gym in the spare stall of the garage in his home.
They’re professional athletes, and their primary duty is to stay in shape so that when the NHL calls to say play can resume, they’re ready.
Before the NHL season got suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Wild had won eight of their past 11 games. They were one point out of a playoff spot, three points out of the No. 6 spot and with 13 games to play, Parise felt like the team was coming together after Bruce Boudreau was fired and Dean Evason took over as interim coach.
"I think we like the way we were playing and playing with a lot of speed, we’re starting to win some games and we were feeling good about it. We’re right there in that mix with that bottom group of teams fighting for that Wild Card spot. We like the direction we’re going," Parise said.
So if he had to choose, which teammate would Parise most like to be stuck with in a home during the Covid-19 pandemic? Joel Eriksson-Ek or Alex Stalock.
“He’s a pretty quiet guy and easy-going, pretty good sense of humor, or Stalock,” Parise said. “He would be the most entertaining with Stalock. No dull times.”
Who is the last teammate he would choose? Jordan Greenway.
“He’s a great guy, just lazy and tired all the time. Slob a little bit. On the airplane his chair is just gross. Crap everywhere, from what I heard his apartment is just pizza boxes all over the place,” Parise joked.
So when the kids go down at night, these pro athletes are just like the rest of us. It’s time for an adult beverage, and turn on the TV.
Their current favorite shows are Netflix specials Tiger King, and the third season of Ozark.
“We’re starting the last episode of Tiger King tonight. I don’t know, I love it. It’s great,” Parise said. “The other day we opened a bottle of wine at 5 and fell asleep on the couch watching Tiger King by 8:30.”
“We get them all down by 8 typically on a good night and then there’s a half hour of just numbness. Our wine collection is getting low,” Wheeler said.