The NHL still has major hurdles to clear to resurrect the season that was put on hold in March by the coronavirus pandemic, but Wild forward Luke Kunin is bracing for a return — even as a Type 1 diabetic at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
“It’s moving in the right direction,” Kunin said Thursday during a video conference call. “We’re getting a lot of positive feedback, a lot of good information as the weeks go on, which is very exciting. I can’t wait to get back. I think this is the longest you’ve gone without playing, a lot of us have, so I think a lot of us are itching to get back.”
Before the season can resume, the league has to finalize logistical details and get the players to agree. But the NHL has made strides that suggest a restart is realistic, opening team facilities for workouts and greenlighting a 24-team format.
If it’s safe to start playing again, Kunin said he can’t wait to get back and players would be excited.
“Hopefully things keep going in the right direction and we’re playing shortly,” he said.
Still, issues have been raised — from players being isolated from their families to the implications for those with health conditions such as Kunin. Montreal’s Max Domi and the New York Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko also have Type 1 diabetes.
Kunin, 22, said that after talking to his endocrinologist and team doctors and staff, he feels there aren’t many concerns for him and he will take the same precautions as everyone else such as not sharing towels and drinks and washing his hands as often as possible.
“It’s definitely something I think about, having to live with Type 1 diabetes,” said Kunin, who had 15 goals and 16 assists during 63 regular-season games. “Whether this pandemic was going on or not, I’m going to face some harder things and some more difficult times taking care of myself than others.
“Obviously, I’m going to do everything in my power and I know the doctors and the team will as well to make sure that we don’t get there, that we do all the right things to make sure I’m staying healthy along with all the other players so we don’t have to get to that point.
“I don’t think it’s going to stop me from suiting up.”
In fact, Kunin has already been on the ice skating locally with a few teammates in advance of training camp potentially opening July 10. For that to happen, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association will have to sign off on the parameters and Kunin expects to vote as a team or individually — a resolution he feels is trending toward hockey’s return.
“We’ll figure out what’s best for everyone and kind of go from there,” Kunin said. “But I think there’s a good amount of guys — you’re all competitors. You want to play. We don’t want to sit around and just kind of wait and wait. So hopefully it all works out for all parties and we’re playing.”