Jake Evans was living his dream in the NHL and riding a wave of adrenaline when the COVID-19 pandemic stuck and stopped him cold.
The 23-year-old had just completed his 13th career NHL contest — a 4-2 loss to the Predators at the Bell Centre — earning his first assist and first point in back-to-back games in the NHL.
Now, with play suspended, he finds himself back at his parents’ house in Toronto.
“It’s been basically living the same day: eating healthy, spending some time on cooking, spending some time with my parents,” said Evans. “I’ve been biking a lot outside and working out.”
To break the monotony, Evans has turned an old friend: his keyboard.
“I’ve been playing the piano ever since I could remember, as a kid. I took a break when I got older, but my parents got me a keyboard last year for Christmas so I’ve been getting back into it,” Evans said.
Rediscovering love for music
Evans says his mother is the one responsible for getting him started on the piano.
As a kid, he said, practice was a part of the morning routine — him on the piano, his brother on the violin.
Even as he progressed in minor hockey, he stuck with music, eventually earning his Grade 7 Royal Conservatory certificate.
Focused on becoming a professional hockey player, Evans admits that he didn’t have much time for piano lately — but now, with the season on hold, he’s finding his groove again.
“It’s fun to learn songs on the piano that you’d listen to on the radio all the time. It’s a fun way to get those songs that you used to know back in your repertoire,” he said.
Nominated for the AHL’s Man of the Year
Evans was striking the right note both on and off the ice this season.
He helped raise $15,565 to fight pediatric cancer. On Monday, the AHL announced he was the Laval Rocket nominee for the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award — the league’s “man of the year” award, which honours a player’s contributions to the community.
He also immersed himself in the Rocket’s reading program with local elementary schools. It was similar to a program he participated in when he was a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
“I felt lucky to be a part of a great program and wanted to give back, so I spent a lot of time at an elementary school there,” he said. “I felt the same way in Laval.”
“We’re so lucky to be playing the game that we love. That’s our job. So when we have spare time we should use it accordingly.”
A bright spot in Habs’ otherwise difficult season
After being a late seventh-round draft pick by the Habs in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Evans decided to stay in college and play the next four seasons at Notre Dame.
He made the move to the AHL in the 2018-19 season and played in Laval with the Rocket, earning 45 points in 67 games.
This year, he was one of the last to be cut out of the Canadiens’ training camp, and after 51 minor-league games, he was called up.
“I’m really happy with where I’ve gotten so far,” said Evans. “But there’s not that much time to be happy about it. I’ve got to keep working and keep pushing and just imagine that the season could get going in a couple of weeks.”
“I have to be ready for it.”
The Habs season should have wrapped up on Saturday, and Evans should be into his off-season right now. Instead, he and every other NHL hockey player are in limbo, unsure if or when the season will start up again.
“It’s just weird. You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Evans said. “I’m just trying to stay prepared.”
In the meantime, he has his music.