With the exception of perhaps Ryan O'Reilly, no one is happier about getting back on the ice this week than Blues coach Craig Berube.
He was quickly bored once the NHL's pandemic "pause" started way back in March, reduced to cooking breakfast for his family, riding a bicycle, and binge-watching "Ozark" at his home near Philadelphia.
Hard to imagine, isn't it? A couple more weeks without hockey and he might have taken up croquet. Or crochet.
Not a pretty picture.
But Berube is back in his element this week at Centene Community Ice Center, beginning the ramp-up to playoff hockey in August. Granted, hockey in August doesn't sound right but Berube doesn't care.
"It just feels good to be back out there," Berube said. "We've been all gearing up for this. We've been dealing with all the uncertainty for quite a while now, so it's just nice to get back out there knowing that we're going forward here with what we're trying to do."
In a normal training camp, you know, one that starts in September, players take a fitness test before they step on the ice for practice. This time around, the fitness test is taking place on the ice during the first week of Phase 3 (training camp) -- the re-start of the 2019-20 season.
Since the March 12 shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Blues have been in hockey limbo. Kind of half in, half out as they waited to see if hockey would return this season. Sure, they did off-ice work, but some had access to more workout equipment than others. And until late June, when the Blues started trickling into Centene for the Phase 2 voluntary workouts, ice time was more rumor than reality.
But after consulting with his coaching staff and captain Alex Pietrangelo, Berube's plan on how to approach the return to play is now unfolding.
"We do have quite a bit of time until we start," Pietrangelo said. "We'll have like two weeks, 2 1/2 weeks until we play a game."