By Suzie Cool (@SuzKewl) | Published on March 30, 2020
Imagine being in the midst of your second season in the American Hockey League while playing for the Rochester Americans. At this point in the year it’s mid-March, you’re beginning to see more playing time and the playoff push is real.
Now let’s go back to Wednesday, Mar. 11 as the Amerks were taking on the Binghamton Devils at The Blue Cross Arena in a crucial matchup between two clubs fighting for a playoff position in the AHL’s North Division. Second-year pro Brandon Hickey was a healthy scratch for the contest, which meant that he would have ample access to his phone and any news that may hit throughout the night.
Of course, the news that he just happened to come across would be the beginning of the newfound reality that shook the sports world within a 24-hour period and put his second season in the American Hockey League on pause.
“Obviously the news about Rudy Gobert was a giant shock and I kind of had an idea that it was going to affect more than just basketball as the NHL shares a lot of facilities with the NBA. When it affects an athlete like that, and all of these sports are so close and you’re playing against one another all of the time, I knew it was just the beginning of the storm that was about to come,” said Hickey.
The second-year defenseman wasn’t wrong about the NBA news that was shocking enough during the Amerks game back on that Wednesday night, but the next day was what had everyone glued to their phones and televisions. As Hickey is roommates with teammates and fellow Amerks defensemen Casey Fitzgerald and Jacob Bryson, they all were updating their social platforms and following along with the news to see how the rest of their season with the Amerks was about to unfold.
“We were all super interested in what was going on and obviously it affected our season, so it was really important to us. We were just trying to get as much information as we could because we wanted to be prepared for whatever was going to happen,” recalled the defenseman when asked how he and his roommates were keeping up to date with what was going on in the sports world.
Just four days after the initial news of the suspension of the AHL season, it seemed right that all players were informed to head back home for the unforeseeable future. And once this news circulated to the athletes here in Rochester, it was time for them to get back home as soon as possible.
With Hickey having two roommates, they sought out a storage locker and packed up their house within a 48-hour period. Bryson returned to Canada the very same afternoon they received the news to head back home before Fitzgerald would leave the next day for Massachusetts. Hickey was the last to leave as there were a couple of errands left to run before he embarked on his 36-hour trek across the country back to Calgary, Alberta.
Luckily for Hickey, he wouldn’t have to make that long drive home alone as he picked up his mom on the way in Hamilton, Ontario, and had his dog, Odin, by his side throughout the entirety of his trip.
Since being back home in Alberta for almost a week now, it’s been a surreal feeling for the second-year pro as reality has begun to sink in that the season is officially on a standstill until further notice.
“This is usually a time where we’re still playing hockey and getting ready for a playoff run, so it’s definitely weird to be at home, but that’s just the way things have unfolded. It all happened so fast that you didn’t have any down time to think about it while it was happening, so being at home you get a little more time to reflect and realize that this is a big situation.”
One again, though, there’s always the light that one can turn to in the darkest of situations.
This unprecedented time period is giving Hickey more time to spend with his family than he has had in years, while also bringing him back to his childhood days where he’d practice his hockey skillset in the rink his father had set up for he and his brother in their basement. Not only will the Amerks defenseman continue to work on his hands and stay in the best shape possible throughout this time period, but he also feels it’s a great time to be able to relax and focus on the mental aspect of the game as well.
As we’re all excited to get the Amerks season back in action as soon as possible, it remains to be seen when that will actually happen. Until then, we can continue to promise you that all the Amerks players are looking forward to getting back here to the Flower City and finishing up what they started here in the 2019-20 season.
With one final message from Hickey to you all here in Rochester, he’ll leave you with this.
“Take care of yourselves, take care of others and be a good person. This is a really important time, and the quicker we listen and the more we do now, the less we’ll have to do in the future and the quicker we can get this all under control.”