When he’s trying to ward off flying pucks isn’t the only time Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk wears a mask.
He also has one on when he shows up to Tria Rink in St. Paul to train and while he’s moving between activities.
“It’s obviously a little weird not seeing people’s faces and facial expressions,” Dubnyk said. “But that’s the way it is right now.”
Masking up is one of many precautions Wild players have to take to skate at the team’s practice facility, which opened for voluntary workouts this week. The protocols could be a preview of what’s to come if the NHL season returns later this summer after being put on hold in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“They’re doing their best to obviously keep us as safe as they can,” Dubnyk said.
Before getting on the ice Wednesday for his first skate, Dubnyk was tested Monday for COVID-19 and had a physical.
After getting cleared Tuesday, he arrived at Tria Rink at 9 Wednesday morning. Dubnyk parked where he normally would, strapped on a mask and then had his temperature taken upon entering the building. He also filled out a survey to check for symptoms and watched a presentation about what to expect at the facility.
Dubnyk worked out off-ice for about an hour and when he was done, he put on a mask and got dressed to skate. He had to be out of the facility by noon.
“The only big difference [was] we just changed in the dressing room,” Dubnyk said. “So there’s no kind of changing stalls area. They’re just trying to limit the areas that we have contact with right now.”
Teammates Ryan Hartman and Carson Soucy were on the ice with Dubnyk, along with Iowa Wild players Louie Belpedio, Kyle Rau and Mat Robson. Players can train in groups of up to 12. Equipment and training staff members were also on hand.
For now, the plan is to work out Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Dubnyk anticipates more teammates joining the sessions next week. The NHL is scheduled to open training camps July 10 if the league and players agree to restart the season and proceed with a 24-team tournament to award the Stanley Cup.
“Everyone’s going to start to file in from out of town as long as this July 10 date sticks,” said Dubnyk, who is the team’s representative in the NHL Players’ Association.
This week was the first time Dubnyk donned his goaltending equipment since March 11, the last practice the Wild had before the season was paused the next day. Dubnyk had been mostly on the bench as the backup in the second half while Alex Stalock took over the bulk of the starting duties. But when camp starts, Dubnyk will vie for his normal job ahead of the Wild taking on the Canucks in a best-of-five qualifying matchup.
That lead-up will be key for everyone to get back on the same page after months apart, and the primer could follow similar guidelines to the ones that are in place for these voluntary skates.
They might actually be more stringent to ensure players are healthy and safe and the NHL stays on track to resume the season, even while positive cases continue to emerge across sports.
“Once training camp starts obviously, you’re going to go home and go to your families and do the things that you need to do,” Dubnyk said “But that message of responsibility, of maybe not going to a bar or a packed restaurant or whatever it is, I’m assuming that’s going to be pushed through as a message.
“But at the end of the day, that’s us. That’s our choice and our responsibility, so it’s just something that guys are going to have to take serious and make sure you’re doing the best thing for yourself and for the group.”