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Jayce Hawryluk still has a tough time believing he was stricken with the same virus that has claimed more than 130,000 lives worldwide.
Roblin's Hawryluk happy to have fresh start with SenatorsClick to Expand
Posted: 3:22 PM Feb. 20, 2020
OTTAWA — The nation’s capital isn’t exactly the Disneyland of the hockey world these days, but Jayce Hawryluk’s joy level is high as he begins a new chapter in his NHL career.
The last few months have, indeed, been a roller-coaster ride for the proud native of Roblin who began his second season in Florida with so much promise but now finds himself in the employ of the Ottawa Senators, a bottom-tier Atlantic Division team in a rebuilding mode.
Hawryluk, 24, was one of six Ottawa players plus a member of the Senators staff that tested positive for coronavirus between March 17 and April 1. The Manitoba-born NHL winger has successfully recovered from COVID-19 — as have the others — but continues to stick close to home at his parents' place in Roblin.
Speaking with the Free Press on Thursday, the former Brandon Wheat Kings star said despite enduring only a mild case, the diagnosis was definitely unnerving.
"It's scary when you find out you have it, just because all the news on it. You mostly only hear the worst of it, so you think the worst," said Hawryluk. "Obviously, there's pretty severe cases out there, people are passing away. It's nerve-racking, but I tried to stay positive during the whole process.
"Just stay inside and do the things you can do to try and make yourself better. Eating healthy, taking vitamins, some rest."
Hawryluk, the fourth of five kids, is home with his younger sister, Lexi, a nursing student and basketball player at the University of New Brunswick, and his parents, Terry and Sandra. His three older brothers live on their own, so there's been plenty of room to isolate.
"I'm fortunate to have a nice house where I have the whole basement to myself, which has plenty of room to live in and be comfortable. I was getting my meals made for me and eating downstairs, just basically living like it's my own apartment in the basement and keeping my distance from them," he said.
Hawryluk, who went from the Florida Panthers to Ottawa in mid-February after being plucked off the waiver wire, played 11 games and was just getting into a groove — scoring twice and chipping in five assists — before the NHL halted play on March 12 due to the health crisis.
He scored early in the third period in Los Angeles, although the host Kings rallied for a 3-2 victory, the night before the season was suspended. Within days of the interrupted California road trip, Hawryluk was on his way to Manitoba — and showing symptoms.
"It was like a common cold. Phlegmy and coughing, but nothing too much more than that. It kind of came on when I was travelling home. I didn't really expect to have it because I really didn't feel too badly. And it turned out that I did," said Hawryluk, who was given a nasal swab at Roblin Health Centre and received a positive diagnosis 10 days later.
By then, he'd already returned to normal health. "It took me about a week to start feeling normal, so it wasn't too bad. I recovered pretty quickly and feel fine now," he said.
His father said getting tested was the responsible thing to do, considering it had already been announced that two of Hawryluk's teammates had come down with the virus.
"We were shocked when he tested positive because he was acting normal, still eating a ton and doing what these young guys do, working out, the whole nine yards," said Terry. "It's something we all had to deal with. Any time your child gets anything, there's always a concern. They're still your little boy or your little girl."
Drafted by Florida in the second round in 2014, Hawryluk spent two seasons in the Panthers' minor-league system before getting his big break in mid-December 2018 with his NHL debut at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Four games later, he scored the first two goals of his career in Chicago against the Blackhawks.
Hawryluk finished his rookie season with seven goals and 12 points in 42 games, and began the 2019-20 campaign with plenty of promise. But he scored just once and added a pair of assists in 15 games with Florida this season, missing 28 games over a six-week span due to a shoulder injury suffered Oct. 30 against the Colorado Avalanche.
In mid-December, he was assigned to the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL for a conditioning stint, got recalled after the holiday season but couldn’t win over head coach Joel Quenneville and was routinely a healthy scratch.
A restricted free agent this summer, the 5-11, 195-pound winger considers the move to Ottawa a new lease on life and wants to be part of the rebuild in the nation's capital.
"It was a good ending for myself. I was able to show the brass in Ottawa what type of player I am. Obviously, I would have liked to play the last 11 (regular season) games, and we still might, who knows," he said. "I'm there to play my game, playing with energy, helping the team however I can. I look to bring that every night, but I also look to bring some offence. That's something I've been doing my whole career and I feel I can do it at this level, too.
"I want to be with Ottawa and I want to continue to grow with the team they have there and be part of the future. That's something we'll get caught up with in the summer, contracts and negotiations, but right now no one really knows what's happening with the end of the season. We'll cross that bridge then."
Until there's either a resumption of the season or a cancellation, Hawryluk is focused on staying in the best shape he can, maintaining contact with his new Sens buddies by phone, social media and online video-game battles, and enjoying bonus time with his sister and folks.
"They all tested negative and they feel fine. Thankfully, no one caught the virus," he said. "I'm just hanging out in Roblin. I've gone outside a few times, walks around the park, I have my little route, but basically just waiting until I hear word, hopefully soon, of what the plan is.
"I talked to a few of my teammates (who were sick). For sure, we talked about having (the virus), how everyone reacted differently. But thankfully, we're all OK and recovered now, and anxious to figure out what's going on now with our hockey season. When you've been cooped up this long in isolation you get very bored and want to start doing things, especially playing hockey. That's the main focus."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).