By Mike Max

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Former NHL player, agent and general manager Brian Lawton is now an analyst on the NHL Network.

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That job means frequent visits to New York studios this year. He gave WCCO his take on the stoppage due to COVID-19, and a personal scare that has gone with it.

When will they come back? Will they come back at all? The NHL is dependent on playoff revenue, and they seem to have synergy between players and ownership.

“The number-one thing that I notice, Mike, when I talk to players, or when I talk to anyone at the NHL office, is that they would really like to see a champion still crowned this year,” Lawton said.

One reason they can come back on short notice is the conditioning. It’s become year-round and machine-like. It’s a different era that treats their bodies differently.

“These guys are professionals, and nowadays when training camp starts, it’s not like when I was a player. Guys didn’t bring their equipment home [laughs]!” Lawton said. “You ask them what they did over the summer, and they said they walked when they played golf. Those are not these times [laughs]!”

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What he does believe will happen has already happened a bit in professional hockey in the locker room, where they live a good part of their lives.

“I can tell you the last 10 years, the amount of precautions and just the uptick in knowledge and awareness of how a hockey team actually spreads germs, even when I was still playing we were sharing water bottles and things like that [laughs]!” Lawton said. “That doesn’t go on anymore.”

Lawton commutes to New York for work, and he’s very much in touch with his colleagues while he’s back home in Minnesota.

“It’s tough right now. I talk to people almost every day in New York, and it literally feels like something out of an apocalyptic movie right now,” he said.

It may have hit close to home. He has traveled much and was sick in January, and his son displayed symptoms, including a 104-degree fever.

“Tested for flu, negative. Tested for strep, negative. The third hospital visit that I brought him on, they eventually told him that he had fluid in his lungs and he had been diagnosed with pneumonia,” Lawton said. “I’m about 99.9% sure that he actually, definitively had coronavirus. That was back on Jan. 23, when nobody was talking about this in America.”

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Mike Max