Family Man

Carlson Adjusting To Life At Home As He Waits To Return To The Ice

John Carlson and his wife Gina have been able to keep their boys, Lucca and Rudy, entertained and engaged during these days of social distancing. Unfortunately, that means they’ve already run through all their Easter presents and candy, and Easter is still a few days away.

 

Such is life at home for the Washington Capitals defenseman who, like the rest of the world, is waiting for the veil of this global pandemic to lift so he can get back on the ice. The biggest questions for all those waiting to resume their NHL seasons are not only if it will happen but what will it look like if it eventually does.

 

“There’s obviously a lot of factors that none of us can predict, especially not right now,” Carlson said during a video conference call on Wednesday. 

 

“I’m just worried about playing at this point. I don’t want to be too optimistic of coming back quickly and being able to finish the regular season and all that. All I’m thinking about is trying to keep myself in the best shape that I can with these circumstances. Whatever the rest of the season holds I’ll worry about that when I get to lace the skates up again.”

 

Such is the new normal for the 30-year-old native of Natick, Mass., who was having the best season of his 11-year career and was a leading candidate to win his first Norris Trophy.

 

It’s been an eye-opening experience for Carlson to see what Gina deals with on a daily basis as he finds his place in the family’s daily routine. 

 

“Just being able to see what my wife’s had to deal with for the last couple of months is pretty sobering,” Carlson said. “But it’s fun to get to do a lot of things, although we are quarantined to the house.  It’s fun to see them more and hearing my name screamed around the house is a lot of fun. 

 

“When we look back, and hopefully this thing turns around and everything’s going to be able to finish out like it was, it will definitely be a moment I’ll remember that I got to spend that much more time with them.”

 

In between his new role as Mr. Mom, or Mother’s Little Helper, depending on how you look at it, Carlson tries to stay in shape by sticking to the program put together by the Capitals strength and conditioning staff. With no way to get on the ice, most of his training focuses on performing various cardio and body weight exercises. 

 

“For me, anything I do has to be done in the morning or else things get too squirrely as the day goes along with the kids and things to do and what not,” Carlson said. 

 

“If this happened at the beginning of your training portion of the summer it would be a lot more difficult. But with where we were at in the season and everything, I think that’s the only saving grace in terms of trying to keep that level as high as you can to where we have a real tough training camp coming out of this thing.”

 

He knows he’s not alone. So many other athletes are in the same boat, chomping at the bit from the sidelines as they wait to return to the field of play. For youth hockey players, the 2014 U.S. Olympian offers a few words of advice and encouragement.

 

“All you can do is just stay as sharp as you can,” said Carlson, who played with the New Jersey Rockets youth organization before making the jump to the United States Hockey League with the Indiana Ice.

 

“I didn’t have an ice rink to skate on all the time, so practices and games were the only time I would be able to get out there. So just be a kid and play other sports and do other things that you can do at home to change things up so that when hockey does come back you’ll miss it even more.” 

 

Right now Carlson is not only missing hockey but all sports. That’s been one of the hardest adjustments during his time at home.

 

“For me personally, I can’t wait for sports to come back,” he said. “It’s tough trying to find some stuff on TV at night right now.”

 

The pause couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time as he was leading the Capitals in scoring and had eclipsed his career-high point total (75) and was considered a leading candidate to become just the fourth American to win the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. 

 

From a team standpoint, the Capitals found themselves in a bit of a slide, surrendering the Metropolitan Division lead they held for much of the season before regaining it by a slim margin over the surging Philadelphia Flyers before the break.

 

“It’ll be a little funky, but it will feel like a brand new slate,” Carlson said. “It doesn’t matter if you were playing good or bad, we’re all going to be at the same level in terms of what we’re dealing with. It’ll definitely feel like a new season, although we’re not that far removed from the day-to-day normalcy that we had before.”

 

In the meantime, Carlson is enjoying the “new normal” that affords him more time to spend with his family and not getting caught up in the rumors and speculation of when the puck will finally drop again.

 

“I just try to leave it out of my hands. There’s nothing that I can say or read or watch that’s going to change the outcome of anything,” he said.

 

“It took me a little while to get used to being at home all the time and dealing with the kids and my wife. It’s tough for everybody, but you make it work. Now we’re kind of over that in-between phase and starting to really have some fun.”

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