As the sport of field hockey battles the COWID-19 pandemic at a high level, players are forced to adapt – and accept isolation as a way of life.

One player familiar with this situation is Winnipeg Jets prospect Cole Perfetti. The 19-year-old has spent 34 days in quarantine over the past three months and has only been in a hotel since November 15. Not exactly an ideal scenario for his first season as a professional field hockey player.

“I’m like a professional in quarantine now,” Mr. Perfetti said. “So I’ve learned that it’s very important to be open, to follow the movement and to accept change. But it’s true that it has been difficult at times.

Perfetti described his experiences – from his participation in the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta in December and January, to his current performance in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he will soon make his debut for the Manitoba Moose (AHL) – as a window into the psyche of a high-performance athlete who was forced into isolation this winter, and how this affected both his mental health and his athletic preparation.

Perfetti was playing for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit when his season ended abruptly in March 2020.

“It sucks,” Mr. Perfetti said. “We had a really good team in Saginaw. We were one of the hottest teams in the CHL in the last 10-15 games and we were looking forward to the playoffs.

At first he thought the season would start again in a few weeks. He returned to Whitby, Ontario with only his clothes on. Nearly a year later, his room in the family’s Michigan home is still full – shoes, a television, “lots of little things in my room.

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Perfetti spent most of the NHL draft and was selected 10th overall by the Jets in October. On November 15, he traveled to Red Deer, Alberta for the Canadian team’s qualifying camp for the World Cup. He was scheduled to spend 24 hours in quarantine, but after his COVID-19 test came back negative, he was allowed back on the ice. After about a week in camp, two players tested positive for the virus. The entire team was considered at risk and had to remain in quarantine for 14 days.

Perfetti had never been in quarantine before, so he didn’t know what to expect. The team leaders set the ground rules. “I said, ‘Oh my God, you can’t leave your room, food is coming.’ Everything was very strict,” Perfetti said. “No open windows, no fresh air. I didn’t have a panic attack, but I was a little anxious and worried”.

The days were extremely quiet. Perfetti woke up at 9 am with a hotel breakfast waiting for him in front of his room. The team organized a Zoom session to discuss the system or game tape. The training (via Zoom) followed about an hour before lunch. The second Zoom team meeting focused on team building or team camaraderie. This was followed by another block of three to four hours of free time. Dinner, which had been prepared at the hotel, was consumed outside his room. Another team meeting followed in the evening, during which the coaches brought in celebrities and guest speakers such as Canada’s Arkells and Jamie Clark, who had climbed Mount Everest twice.

“The big moments, the days blended together,” Mr. Perfetti said. “I did the same thing every day; we met at the same time.”

Along the way, he got some help. Field hockey Canada gave each player an exercise bike and delivered it to his room. Perfetti’s parents sent him an announcer.

“That was the hardest part, trying to get moisture in the air, fresh air in the room,” he said. “It was hard, but it made me appreciate the fresh things in life a little more – like fresh air.”

Wrong Movie Not specified.Cole Perfetti scored two goals and four assists in seven games at the World Junior Hockey Cup. Cody McLachlan/Getty Images

When the team was released from quarantine, Perfetti said he was “super happy” – both to be able to play field hockey again and to have some social interaction. “But I never thought I would be so tired after taking two weeks off and going back to practice,” he said. “Everyone was struggling on the first day, it was pretty exhausting.”

Perfetti was added to the team, and on December 13, the Red Deer team traveled to Edmonton. “I think it was really good for the spirit, just being in a cool environment,” Perfetti said.

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The next quarantine – necessary to enter the MJC bubble – lasted only a few days (4½). The team stayed at the JW Marriott, which was attached to the Edmonton ice rink and, according to Perfetti, was the nicest hotel he had ever stayed in. With a rotating flat-screen TV and a “huge, massive shower with shower heads,” Perfetti said the four days went by quickly and he knew what to expect.

After the tournament, several players went straight to NHL camps. “I was lucky that the Jets let me go home for three days before I had to go to Winnipeg,” he said. It was so necessary for me. After being at the hotel for 55 days straight, I stayed that way. Three days at home to see my family was really good for my state of mind.

Perfetti’s parents asked him if he wanted to order food for his birthday or for Christmas. I said, “No way,” he said. “Can’t we just go to the grocery store and just cook? Hotel food is outdated, very fast”.

He then traveled to Winnipeg, where Perfetti was again quarantined.

Manitoba quarantined Perfetti for seven days in complete isolation and monitored every two days. While the NHL worked with the government on a release, the next seven days were a hybrid quarantine. He could skate with Moose, but he couldn’t go anywhere but the hotel or the rink.

“So I was always locked in,” Mr. Perfetti said. “But it was a lot easier knowing that I could go to the rink, keep playing field hockey and take my mind off the hotel, and it killed a few hours of my day.”

Perfetti stayed in a hotel after he turned forty, and that’s where he lives now. The Jets arranged for him to stay in a hotel with a large living room and kitchen.

“Honestly, when I was on my own, cooking, cleaning and doing everything, I realized it took time,” Mr. Perfetti said. “I bought one dish since I got here last month. I cooked the rest. I don’t have all the resources – pots, pans, spices, sauces – that I could use at home, but at least I know what I’m adding to my body: healthy food and the right amount of food for me.” As an athlete, that’s very important.

Wrong: The movie is not specified.Cole Perfetti has everything he needs in his hotel room. Courtesy of Cole Perfetti.

The teen says he has learned a lot about himself in the past few months and has some advice for anyone entering their forties. Yes, PlayStation has helped, both to pass the time and to socialize. “Even when you’re not hanging out with your friends, you’re hanging out with them on the microphone and communicating with each other, so to speak,” he says. FaceTiming with friends and family has been just as helpful.

The biggest tip: going to bed early was very important. “I went to bed at 10 and woke up at 9,” he said. “Eleven hours of the day went by. And I felt rejuvenated once I got out of my forties, and even though the first day on the ice was hard, I felt like I had a lot of energy when I got out of my forties because I slept a lot.”

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As for staying in shape, Perfetti was realistic about expectations. On the contrary, he did not want to achieve much with limited equipment and space.

“I just tried to maintain some kind of physical activity every day,” he said. “There are a lot of workout videos on YouTube that you can watch for 20 to 30 minutes. I wasn’t trying to lose weight completely, I was trying to build muscle and gain strength. It was more about making me sweat and making sure I wasn’t just lying in bed.” No matter what you do when you’re 40, your conditioning won’t be the same. It will take a few days to get back into it – nothing can imitate skating except skating – but it’s important to know this and not be too hard on yourself. ”

After nearly a year of uncertainty and changes in plans, Perfetti will soon begin his first pro season when the Elks skate against the Toronto Marlies on Monday.

“In some ways, I think the last two months have been very helpful in my transition to [professional field hockey],” he said. “There will be things that happen that you don’t expect, things that will disrupt your schedule, but adaptability is an essential part of success.

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