Connor McDavid enlisted a four-legged trainer to help him stay in shape during the NHL’s coronavirus shutdown.
The Oilers captain and two-time scoring champion is working out at home in Edmonton with Lenny, his nine-month-old miniature Bernesedoodle.
On Thursday, McDavid posted a video on social media after he did 15 squats in 30 seconds with the wriggling, joyous fluffball clutched against his chest. On March 23, which was National Puppy Day, he shared a snippet from a shooting session in which a wagging Lenny ran off with one of his rubber balls.
For a smile, take a gander @lenardthebernedoodle on Instagram.
McDavid, who has a gym in his newly built house, is better off than many of the players left idle when games were suspended on March 12. Most rely on their teams’ fitness centres and own little equipment themselves.
Along with training with Lenny, the 23-year-old has been running with teammate and pal Darnell Nurse while both keep a careful distance of two metres apart. He is also collaborating on a home-workout video for fans with former NHL player and fitness trainer Gary Roberts.
On Friday, McDavid joined Calgary’s Mark Giordano, Vancouver’s Bo Horvat and Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson on a video call with journalists arranged by the league. When sports screeched to a halt, all four teams were battling for playoff positions in the Pacific Division.
“It is tough,” McDavid said. “We don’t know what is going to happen with the season. We are very hopeful it is going to come back and we will be able to pick up where we left off.”
With the standings frozen, McDavid’s Oilers are in second place, three points ahead of the third-place Flames. If the remainder of the regular season is scuttled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alberta rivals would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Flames have won three of the four games between them, but Edmonton won the last, 8-3. The bad blood that existed when both were among the NHL’s elite teams in the 1980s has resurfaced. The Oilers goalie, Mike Smith, and his Calgary counterpart, Cam Talbot, exchanged punches in their most recent meeting.
“We’ve had lots of meaningless games between us [since he joined the NHL] but this year has been especially wild,” McDavid said.
The NHL is considering a number of variables, but all of them depend on when the coronavirus has run its course.
“As far as the break, if we can get back to playing, I think this will be one of the greatest playoffs ever because every team is going to have all their guys healthy and ready to go,” said Giordano, the Flames’ captain. “You are truly going to have the best version of every team.”
McDavid, who suffered a serious knee injury in the final game of the 2018-19 regular season, is second in the league in scoring with 97 points. He trails only his teammate Leon Draisaitl, who is first with 110. Edmonton trailed the first-place Vegas Golden Knights by only three points when a break was declared because of the spread of the dangerous flu-like illness, and was on the verge of reaching the postseason for only the second time in 13 years.
“It is very frustrating, but there are is a lot more important stuff going on,” McDavid said. "The health and safety of everyone is what’s important. Hockey can go on hold for a little bit.
“It is important that everyone does what they have to do and takes care of each other so we can get this over with and get back to playing hockey.”
Vancouver and Arizona could possibly miss the playoffs if the rest of the regular season is cancelled. McDavid said he would hate for that to happen, even if provided automatic entry into the Stanley Cup playoffs for his own team.
“We need to have a fair season, and a fair season is a full season,” he said. “I don’t think we can just step into the playoffs and Game 1 with Calgary in Edmonton and guys running around killing each other without having played for two months.”
Although he comes from Newmarket, a suburb north of Toronto, McDavid decided to stay in Edmonton rather than join his family.
“I thought it was safest to stay put,” he said. “I didn’t want to travel through the airport.”
For now, he and Lenny will keep up their routine.