While the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted lives around the world, Luke Witkowski is making the most of his time off with his growing family.
The professional hockey player from Holland is a new dad, his wife Erin giving birth to their daughter Fenn six weeks ago.
While he wishes it wasn’t because of the coronavirus, Witkowski is soaking up every minute as a new dad.
“Fatherhood is awesome,” he said. “She is keeping us busy. She is starting to smile a lot more and seeing things better. My wife and I talked about finding the positives in our situation. To be able to be here for the first few months when she is changing so much. That is the biggest positive for me.”
Witkowski is back home in Michigan with the hockey season suspended, like the rest of the sports world.
The former Detroit Red Wing is in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization on the Syracuse Crunch, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Lightning.
He left the team for Fenn’s birth, but never went back because of the shutdown.
“It was a must for me,” he said of being present for the birth. “To be able to be there for the whole process was huge. It was very special.”
Now, he is watching his daughter change.
“So far, she has been great. She seems to want to poop every time I leave. She is playing favorites and making mom do it,” he joked. “But the adjustment has been relatively easy. It feels completely natural. Now I can’t imagine things without her. So far it has been all positives.”
Once the stay-home order is over, Witkowski said he still won’t be straying very far unless the season resumes.
“We are just chilling. I will probably put my boat in the water because I can isolate myself on the water,” he said.
Witkowski said he believes the AHL season will not resume, but that is just his opinion at this point.
“I am pretty sure the AHL is done for the year. The NHL thinks they can salvage something,” he said. “In my personal opinion I don’t think we will have a season. I don’t think the virus will be gone by then. It puts our jobs into perspective. Our job relies on other people paying to watch us. We provide entertainment, but we are not that important. It is nice that we are still being paid. This is the best time of year hockey wise. Teams are fighting to get into the playoffs.
“We were doing pretty well, so it stinks. But I am very fortunate in the situation. I am not living paycheck to paycheck. It is scary and sad for a lot of people.”
Witkowski had worked his way back from a high ankle sprain, which sidelined him for some of the season. Now he is working out to get back into shape at home.
“The biggest adjustment for me was coming back from the injury. I had a lot of confidence and felt great. I felt well respected from my teammates. That helped,” he said. “The injury came at a time that my daughter was going to be born. I took a couple more weeks to go home and be there.”
Now, he is trying to remain in playing shape in case the season resumes, or even if the NHL season resumes and he is called up to Tampa.
“I would go stir crazy if I couldn’t work out,” he said. “I have a Peloton at home so I will be riding a bike. We will be doing some high intensity interval training in the basement. They told us to be ready in case the season starts back up.”
— Contact Sports Editor Dan D’Addona at Dan.D’Addona@hollandsentinel.com or 616-546-4276. Follow him on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.