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Working from the confines of home amid a pandemic, Brendan Shanahan knows the hibernation of Leafs Nation is hardly deserving of front page coverage.
At a time Toronto’s hockey team would be marshalling for a possible playoff run, COVID-19 has slowed operations to a crawl. Maple Leaf Square is empty, not an Auston Matthews sweater or ticket scalper, never mind any post-season viewing party under the big screen.
“It’s like we’re going through withdrawal right now,” said club president Shanahan in a phone interview Thursday with Postmedia Network. “I think people are definitely missing the highs and lows, the start of the NHL playoffs might be the most exciting brand of sports entertainment.
“For some of us, hockey is our job and what we’ve committed our lives to. But only part of our lives is entertainment. We realize just how much this thing (COVID-19 and its deadly global grip) is bigger than all that.
“I think what this has done, not just in Toronto or Canada, but to everyone in the world, any part of society, is give humanity a common challenge to overcome. You hate to say you need to have moments like now to give you perspective, but this is such a moving situation and so heartbreaking to see. The message is we’re all in this together.”
Shanahan and his wife have three children and he’s trying to keep them safe and occupied at home, with both Leafs and NHL developments to keep up with the past two weeks since the regular season was postponed.
“I guess you’d say thank goodness for social media,” Shanahan said. “My oldest is 17 and we were just talking that if this had happened when I was his age (in the late 1980s) there would have been no ability to connect. There certainly were no cellphones.”
His daily contact is with general manager Kyle Dubas, through whom he keeps track of assistant GMs Laurence Gilman and Brandon Pridham, as well as head coach Sheldon Keefe, the farm team Marlies, scouts and the rest of the front office.
“Kyle has been a great communicator to each of them,” Shanahan said. “Some are busier than others. We spend time running through different scenarios for a return (either resumption of regular season play, straight into playoffs if the Leafs are included as a third-place team in their division or whatever plan the league might have to squeeze in this season without impacting 2020-21).”
“All we can do is be prepared as possible, so if there’s good news, then we’re ready to go. This is a different type of world than all of us are used to, something no one else has had to deal with (in hockey).
“You’re recognizing the uniqueness of the situation, but at the same time, we’re no different than any other company in that we just don’t have the answers yet.”
The laying off of team and hockey office workers around the league is starting to make headlines, namely the Boston Bruins announcing 68 full-time employees will be placed on temporary leave April 1 with a week’s pay, while another 82 will receive an indefinite salary cut.
“I’ll just say we have the best owners in all of sports and that’s not a conversation we’ve had yet,” Shanahan said.
There has been a back and forth of texting between the president and a few Leafs, though with so much uncertainty among the players that seems to be more Dubas’ portfolio.
“We try to funnel most of that through Kyle, though make sure one person is not inundated,” Shanahan. “I’ve heard from some players, I’ve reached out to some, had a couple of conversations.
“I think they’re handling it as best as can be. What a lot are doing, if they’re married or have kids, is making sure they’re following the rules, doing what health officials are recommending.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020