ST. PAUL — After missing more than a month of the 2019-20 National Hockey League season to attend to a family health issue, it should come as no surprise that if they are playing games again sometime in the coming months, one of Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk's top priorities is his wife Jenn and their three children.
In a conference call with reporters from his Twin Cities home on Thursday, May 7, Dubnyk admitted there are concerns regarding one talked-about plan to resume the season, which was postponed on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which would have players sequestered in hotel rooms while games are played at neutral sites without fans in attendance.
"If we do end up going to certain sites — obviously we're not just going to play in all 31 arenas — so there's going to be some form of neutral sites or single sites where a bunch of teams are, what are we looking at as far as how we get to see our families?" Dubnyk asked. "How's that going to work? How long are we going to be away? Again, questions that can't be answered right now, but certainly concerns for guys. Nobody with kids is going to want to be away for three of four months at a time. I think that's a lot to ask of the guys."
For now, like most idled NHL players in North America, Dubnyk is working out at home, and waiting. If and when the Wild return to the ice, and what his role will be then, are other unanswered questions. This season was definitely his most trying in the five years Dubnyk has been in Minnesota. After a tough start to the season, for him and the team, Dubnyk took an extended leave in November to help Jenn through some undisclosed medical issues, and was generally just average on the ice upon returning. When the season was suspended, Dubnyk had a 12-15-2 record, his saves percentage had dipped below .900 for one of the rare times in his career, and he had become the Wild's de facto backup goalie to Alex Stalock. It's a role he seems to accept, for now.
"The biggest thing I said right before this all happened is the reason we're here and the reason we play is to win," Dubnyk said. "Of course I'm as competitive as anybody and I expect to be in the net every night but the reason we're here is winning. If you've got a guy that's playing as well as Al was and we're winning hockey games, then I'm going to sit there and enjoy it."
Originally drafted 14th overall by Edmonton in 2004, Dubnyk — who turned 34 on Monday, May 4 — was getting starts backing up the injured Mike Smith for Arizona early in the 2014-15 season season, about the time that Darcy Kuemper was struggling in goal for the Wild. On January 14, 2015, then-Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher gave up a third round draft pick to get Dubnyk from the Coyotes, who had little use for the goalie once Smith got healthy.
All Dubnyk did with his opportunity in Minnesota was get a shutout in his debut, start a franchise record 38 straight games, post a 27-9-2 record and start 10 playoff games. The Wild rewarded him with a six-year, $26 million contract in the summer of 2015, and he has been the team's mainstay in the crease since then.
With all of the family health issues of the past year, he admitted that the extra time with his wife and children over the past few months is a blessing. And as they wait for some kind of return to the rink, he can joke with Jenn about all of the challenges thrown their way in 2019-20.
"Could you imagine before the season started if I told you I was going to start the season 0-5, miss five weeks due to health concerns and come back and lose my starting job only to have the season cancelled by a global pandemic, what do you think you'd tell me?" Dubnyk said. "That pretty much sums up how ridiculous and crazy this season has been, and this whole thing."