It’s been about seven weeks since the Winnipeg Jets’ regular season was interrupted, yet Adam Lowry swears it’s been at least twice that long.
The veteran centre, who turned 27 during the NHL stoppage owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, was sidelined for 20 games with an upper-body injury early in the calendar year — a stretch from Jan. 20 to March 9 — and returned for just a pair of games before the shutdown.
The pause, he says, has felt interminable.
“It sucked. I worked so hard to get back and to try to give myself the best opportunity to make an impact when I came back, and being off for seven weeks is never easy and then you get to come back and you play two games (against the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers),” Lowry said during a video conference Wednesday with reporters.
“Personally. it’s frustrating and I understand there’s a lot bigger things in play than me missing hockey and me missing time. So, I totally get what we’re doing.”
Lowry was slotted into his regular spot on the third line between Andrew Copp and Jack Roslovic against the visiting Arizona Coyotes on March 9, a 4-2 triumph for the Jets. Forty-eight hours later, the Central Division squad doubled up on the host Edmonton Oilers 4-2 to register its fourth consecutive victory.
“I worked so hard to get back and to try to give myself the best opportunity to make an impact when I came back, and being off for seven weeks is never easy and then you get to come back and you play two games.”
— Adam Lowry
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suspended the NHL season the next day.
“Hopefully when we come back, we pick up where we left off. Our team was really starting to gel,” said Lowry, who had just four goals and six assists in 49 games. “The new pieces (blue-liner Dylan DeMelo and centre Cody Eakin) were really starting to come and contribute, guys were starting to get healthy and you were really starting to see what our team could do.”
Winnipeg was 37-28-6 with 11 games to go, and occupied the first wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference when the team dispersed 50 days ago.
Lowry spent nearly three weeks in Winnipeg before heading west to his off-season home in Calgary where he’s now cooped up with his hockey-playing older brother, Joel, 28, whose season with the Florida Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, was also halted.
Their parents, former NHLer and current Brandon Wheat Kings bench boss Dave Lowry and his wife, Elaine, along with Adam’s sister Tessa, who plays college hockey in Duluth, Minn., are together in another Calgary residence.
“It’s been nice to see the family a little bit. It’s definitely different, that’s for sure,” said Adam.”In the grand scheme of things, it’s kind of made you realize how fortunate we were beforehand, just with all the amazing things we are allowed to do and can do. I’m looking forward to when these restrictions start to ease up and, hopefully, there’s a vaccine or something where we can get back to that normal.”
“Hopefully when we come back, we pick up where we left off. Our team was really starting to gel.”
The league is working on various scenarios about what a potential return to play could look like. One scheme is competing without fans in a handful of NHL cities. Right now, it’s clear not all players — including Lowry, the Jets’ union representative — are on board with the isolation and social-distancing requirements being discussed.
“I don’t even have (a wife and children) but for guys with families, that’s something that’s a little unfair to ask them to be away… for an extended period of time. I know it’s a business and I know we have contracts and everything. It’s going to be a point of contention for sure for players,” he said.
Lowry faced a wide range of questions during the 35-minute chat. Here’s a few answers from one of Winnipeg’s most well-spoken and engaging members.
On fighting Ryan Reaves of the Vegas Golden Knights last November after Lowry delivered a punishing hit:
“I was just trying to not get my head knocked off. I think after the hit, it was unfortunate where a player (Alex Tuch) gets hurt on a play. You see (former Vegas head coach) Gerard Gallant throw out Reaves and he ends up in the centre circle, so you know that’s not a normal situation. You answer the bell, you deal with the situation, you deal with the repercussion.”
On his time in the AHL (parts of 2012-2014) and the impact on his pro career:
“(In junior) you would be able to kind of impose your will, especially as you get older in those leagues. Now, everyone is a good player. Everyone can skate and has size and it’s about using your teammates and learning to play the right way. You can’t just shoot for offence, you have to make sure that you’re taking care of both ends of the rink.”
On what makes Jets winger Kyle Connor (38 goals before the pause) an elite scorer?
“Some guys just have that ability to put the puck in the net. He’s so quick to spots, he’s so good at finding these soft areas. You might not think he’s open, you might think he’s covered, and then he takes two steps and now he’s got a foot and a half. He’s able to get those shots off in those quick areas. He’s so shifty. He scores goals in different ways.”
Assistant sports editor
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