‘I want my buddies back’: Isles’ Scott Mayfield awaits NHL restart
New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield is no different, even though he and his teammates are closing in on restarting their season, which was paused on March 12 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s a lot of boxes that need to be checked for us to come back and play,” Mayfield ceded via a Zoom teleconference earlier this week following a voluntary group workout at the Isles’ practice facility on Long Island.
Mayfield, a seven-year veteran who had amassed five goals, eight assists and 53 penalty minutes through 67 games prior to the pause, skated with fellow blueliners Noah Dobson, Adam Pelech, Thomas Hickey, Devon Toews and goaltender Christopher Gibson at the Northwell Health Ice Center Monday.
The Isles, who are slated to begin an official training camp by July 10 at one of two as-yet-undetermined hub cities the NHL is considering, will be meeting the Florida Panthers in a best-of-five qualifier series when and if play resumes in late July.
It marks the second straight year the Isles have reached the postseason, a first since the franchise relocated to Downtown Brooklyn back in 2015.
But they must beat the Panthers in order to reach the more traditional 16-team chase for the Stanley Cup, a trophy that has avoided the organization’s grasp since 1983.
“Personally, I want to come back playing and I want to compete for a Stanley Cup,” Mayfield said.
“You train all last summer, we play all season for a Stanley Cup. Now, we get a chance to. We’re in a 24-team tournament to play for a Cup. That’s all I’m focused on.”
The league, however, still hasn’t been able to tell teams where to report for training camp as the original list of 10 potential hub cities for the restart has been narrowed down to six, according to a report in The Athletic this week.
Las Vegas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver have emerged as the top choices for where the NHL will stage its expanded playoff tournament next month.
For Mayfield and his teammates, any of those will be fine, as long as they can get back to the business of hockey, something they haven’t been able to do in well over three months now.
“For me, I’m controlling what I can and that’s to be in the best shape and be ready to play if they tell me to come back and play a game tomorrow,” Mayfield noted. “That’s what I want.”
What we want and what we are permitted to do are often two separate things during these unprecedented times.
The league has imposed numerous safety and health regulations at every site where players are gathering in small groups to work out ahead of the restart.
And Mayfield is following those rules as best he can while looking forward to a time where he and his teammates won’t have to social distance and can stage full 5-on-5 training drills.
“We’re strict with the rules and that’s good, we should be,” Mayfield said. “You need to make sure you’re taking all of those precautions … Right now, it’s making sure we stay in our small groups. We stay distanced.
“The weight room is different; if you use a weight, someone else is using a different weight,” he added. “We’re not passing around weights, we’re not spotting each other. We’re making sure we keep a distance. Obviously, that’s tough on the ice, but we’re not doing battle drills. We’re still skating and doing skills stuff.”
Monday marked the first time Mayfield was able to skate alongside a coach as assistant Jim Hiller was on hand to guide the Isles through their practice.
“For me, I want coaches out there,” Mayfield said. “It helps move the practices along. We don’t have to worry about setting up drills. It helps us move along into a better flow practice, getting ready for camp.”
Playing with his teammates and spending time with coaches has also given Mayfield the one thing he missed most while sheltering in place since mid-March.
“That was one of the things that I’ve looked forward to the most,” Mayfield said. “I want to play the games and everything, but I want my buddies back.
“We stay in touch really well. We have a great group. We’re all in contact with each other quite a bit and even with the staff … At the rink, it gives us a very safe place — we’re being tested quite a bit — but it gives us a safe place to hang out and see each other that’s been really nice.”
It’ll be even nicer when Mayfield and company can start to chase the franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup crown next month, no matter where it is.
Isle Have Another: One benefit of the COVID-19 shutdown has been the time it has afforded injured Islander players to recover. Pelech, who has been sidelined since Jan. 2 with a torn Achilles tendon, is fully healthy and ready to go when the NHL gives the Isles the go-ahead to travel and begin camp. “He put in a lot of work to get back,” Mayfield said of his fellow defenseman. “Especially right when the season ended. He was able to still go in and rehab. It worked out really well for him. We had planned on not seeing him [the rest of] this year. Now, we have the chance to get him back in the lineup. He’s a huge piece for us defensively. He’s a great player that we want in the lineup.”
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