Like everyone else, Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden has been staying at home with his family and practicing proper social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. But for the Reirden family, there’s a reason why responsible behavior is especially vital.
Reirden’s 17-year-old son Travis Reirden has a disorder called Common Variable Immunodeficiency that leaves his immune system mostly unable to protect him against everyday viruses and bacteria.
Travis receives treatments to strengthen his immune system, and neither he nor anyone in the Reirden family is sick. But COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is particularly dangerous for the immunocompromised as well as the elderly population.
“It’s something that we’ve had to really stay on top of,” Todd Reirden said Monday on a conference call with reporters.
The Monday following the suspension of the NHL season, Reirden accompanied his son to his immunologist appointment, followed by a different doctor on Tuesday. After receiving the results of some bloodwork, the family was told that Travis was “in a good spot” at the moment, which relieved some of their anxiety about him catching the virus.
“But we’ve really had to be careful about what we’re bringing into the house and not leaving and making sure that if we do go out and do something, that we basically leave all of our clothes at the door and make sure that they get washed and wash our hands and make sure we’re really making the right choices,” the elder Reirden said. “Because it can get scary for someone like him.”
Travis Reirden came down with the flu in late January and fell behind on schoolwork, which for someone with his condition could take weeks to fight off. So his high school in Northern Virginia arranged for a tutor to come to his house while he couldn’t attend school.
He was close to returning to school when the coronavirus began to spread in the U.S. Because of the pandemic, the elder Reirden described it as “a little bit of a fortunate break” that his son hadn’t returned yet. A tutor can’t come to the family’s home now, but Travis and all students in the area are taking lessons online via distance learning.
With the social distancing that’s become the norm for American life during the pandemic, Reirden said his son’s friends “are seeing a little bit of how his life has to go.”
The coach thanked his wife, Shelby, for everything she’s done for the family over the years while he was working and often away from home. Reirden also expressed gratitude for workers battling the coronavirus.
“I’ll tell you, it’s been absolutely amazing work by the first responders and frontline health care people,” Reirden said. “Just talk about the truckers that are making sure that we have food in our grocery stores and everybody, the sacrifices they’ve made. On behalf of the Capitals I just want to thank everybody that makes those sacrifices to go to work and do those things to make these times better for us.”
Meanwhile, Reirden has been planning for hockey’s eventual return by watching old games and conducting group chats with his assistant coaches. Drawing on his experience as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins when the NHL lost 48 games to a lockout in 2012-13, Reirden said he’s mapped out a six-day plan to get players back in game shape.
To Reirden, the unique challenge for NHL players is that almost none of them are able to skate right now, while athletes in other sports at least can run.
“I think to go right into the playoffs — you might have to do that with time-wise and where we’re at, to be able to get the games in because I think everyone wants there to be a Stanley Cup rewarded this year,” Reirden said. “But it also needs to be safe and needs to be smart and needs to have people that are healthy to have that happen … But I have that six-day plan and then as we get closer and get to a situation where we know how long exactly they’re gonna be off the ice — could be two to three months, for sure. Maybe longer.
“We’ve got to be aware of that unique element of the hockey player as a skater and the muscles that they use, and that situation has to be retrained properly.”
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