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One year ago today, the NHL announced it was putting the 2019-20 season on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The news came one day after the NBA did the same when Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus before their game.
The Blackhawks were coming off a 6-2 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center and were prepared to practice that day. It eventually got canceled and the league's press release went out shortly after.
Over the last few days, a handful of Blackhawks reflected on what that whole experience was like and what they remembered about it:
"I just remember we had a big win against San Jose. We were obviously a little bit behind eight ball getting into the playoffs but we had some games coming up that maybe we thought we could win and try and go on a run. All of sudden you hear all this stuff. I don’t think any of us really knew how serious it was at the time.
"I thought maybe we’d have a couple days or a week off and get right back at it. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. It was amazing how everything just turned on a dime and the world pretty much stopped."
Head coach Jeremy Colliton:
"In the days leading up to it, obviously we were aware that things were perhaps going to change, potentially playing with no fans or having some games postponed because of what was coming. But you’re still focused on the game and preparing the team and our own performance. I thought that we had a little bit of momentum, the team had been playing better in the second half and improving, so we were excited about that.
"We played pretty well that game and then all of sudden you’re sitting for multiple months. It was a surprise, for sure. We knew something was coming, I just think anyone expected things to change so quickly."
"I think initially we thought maybe we’d be back playing in a week or two. We know the bubble and everything that happened in the summer, it’s affected a lot of people’s lives. I guess there was just a lot of uncertainty as the virus just continued to play out. We're thankful we’re back playing. We know it's affected a lot of people and it’s been hard on a lot of people, so ultimately, we’re thankful we’re able to be playing hockey and the NHL’s found a way to make it work. But yeah, if you would've told me this a year ago, I don't think any of us would've believed it. It’s just been a lot of uncertainty."
"I didn't realize it was a year ago we were shut down. I just remember hearing rumors that an NBA team had it and just expecting to hear that you kind of just assume it wasn’t going to affect us. You get in your bubble of the season and get on a roll of coming to the rink and don’t think that some of those things are going to end up being that big that you just see on the news, and then when we heard, like everyone, it was such an unknown and a little bit of a fear of how do you react and where can you go? Grocery stores emptied out pretty quick, so there's all those things. And then just expecting it was going to be a short-term thing. I think we all thought we were going to stay in shape and come back right away, but it is crazy we’ve gone a year now."
Brandon Hagel, who made his NHL debut the night before:
"It’s pretty crazy it’s a year ago already. Definitely hasn’t felt that way. It was a special moment, it was a dream come true, obviously. But it wasn’t the best circumstances that it ended there. I wanted to keep playing and trying to prove myself.
"My parents stayed overnight so I was able to spend some time with them for a day or two and was in the hotel, kind of got sick of that and just went back to Rockford and waited around because I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen. It was definitely weird times, but it was for our safety and everything like that."
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