The NHL’s return to play plan is in motions, but not everyone is ready to risk everything to get a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Funny to say, but true, since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is forcing a few older coaches to question if returning behind their respective team’s bench is the right thing to do.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic asked Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, who is 60-year-old, how safe they will feel coaching this summer if the Return to play goes as scheduled.
Julien did not hide that missing the playoff tournament in which his Habs are facing off against the Pittsburgh Penguins could be an option.
“No doubt you’re thinking of the different options you may have, whether it’s wearing a mask, to what extent you are going to deal with your team and players. I know it may be a challenge behind the bench more than anywhere else but my thinking is that I need to be ready to adjust and have options when that time comes depending on where we are at with COVID and our hockey circumstance.
“That also means pulling myself out if I feel a real danger. My family and life are more important than my job at that point.’’
Julien is not the only one considering bowing out of the playoff tourney. Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Charlie Huddy, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Jacques Martin, Dallas Starshead coach Rick Bowness and Florida Panthers assistant coach Mike Kitchen could also think it over long before making their decisions.
As for Joel Quenneville, who is 61-year-old, he had one thing to say:
“Will do whatever is required. I know I’m old, but raring to go.”
UPDATE: Later on Thursday, Claude Julien revealed that he had no intention of missing the playoff tournament and will be benching the Canadiens' bench this summer.