It would be easy for pro hockey players to feel hard done by, as they sit and wait for the National Hockey League season to return, if it returns. Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and his co-workers have been in a kind of frustrating limbo since March 12, when the league shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But on Thursday, May 14, speaking to reporters via Zoom from his home in Calgary, Alberta, Dumba talked instead of how blessed he is in the face of the uncertainty gripping so much of the world.
“I’m in a situation where I’ve got a roof over my head, I’ve got bills paid, I’ve got food in my fridge and loved-ones around me, so I’m very fortunate,” said Dumba, who has been a part of an effort to auction off some of his personal memorabilia to benefit at-home school programs in Minnesota. “I think through this whole process, philanthropy and people helping each other is how we get through something like this.”
Picked by the Wild in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, Dumba made his big league debut in the 2013-14 season, and quickly established himself as a regular on the Minnesota blue line.
Fans came to anticipate his blistering slap shot from the point when the Wild were on the power play, and Dumba notched career highs offensively (14 goals, 50 points in 82 games) in the 2017-18 season. That effort earned him a five-year contract that pays an average salary of $6 million per year.
He was off to a hot start the following season when on Dec. 15, 2018, in a fight versus Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames, Dumba suffered a torn pectoral muscle that ended his season. He was back on the ice in 2019-20, albeit with reduced offensive numbers (24 points in 69 games), and the Wild were making a push for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference when the season was halted.
That puts him back home in western Canada, where Dumba said that the authorities are taking the pandemic very seriously, and he has been quarantining at home. He passes the time training a new dog named Winona, working out at his home gym, and waiting. If and when the Wild will get a chance to complete that push for the playoffs is a mystery, and Dumba admitted that has been hard.
“I think it’s just that unknown. The season’s not over, but it might start up, it might not,” Dumba said. “Flip-flopping every week that goes by and you’re just not sure about anything, really. Usually for us hockey players it’s pretty concrete. You’re either playing or you’re not.”
The Wild players have stayed in touch via regular group chats, just like friends from any workplace would. They had won eight of 11 games prior to the suspension of the season, pulling within one point of the playoffs — which they missed last season with Dumba on the shelf with the injury — and are itching for that chance to at least finish things on the ice.
“There’s so much hard work that went into it, and to see that all go to waste would be very unfortunate,” Dumba said. “So I guess we’ll see what happens. I don’t think anybody has concrete facts or set dates or anything like that. So I’ll just be on standby, like the rest of us, I guess.”