Raleigh, N.C. — At 8 p.m. Sunday, John Forslund was to leave the basement of his Apex home, rejoining his family, symptom-free for the coronavirus, his self-quarantine at an end.
“It’s been an ordeal,” Forslund said Saturday, thankful that a 10-day period filled with uncertainty and mind games would be coming to a close.
Forslund, the Carolina Hurricanes’ longtime broadcaster, also quickly qualified that comment. Others, he said, face grave health challenges from COVID-19 during a global pandemic that has made life as we know it far from the life we once knew. And there are other life-threatening diseases.
“This is something totally different, where you have to sacrifice for the good of yourself and everyone around you, so that’s basically what I did,” Forslund said. “I do have to be honest. It has been harder than I thought it would be.”
Forslind has stayed put in his basement since returning with the Hurricanes from New Jersey on March 12, the day the NHL announced it was suspending — the league called it “pausing” — the season because of the threat and spread of the novel virus. Another Canes employee, video producer Zackary Brame, also went into self-quarantine.
The NBA was the first major professional league to suspend play, that after one of its players, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for the virus. The Jazz had just been in Detroit to play the Pistons, using the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit as its team hotel. When the Jazz left the Westin, the Canes then moved in for their March 10 game against the Red Wings.
Forslund’s hotel room had previously been occupied by Gobert. Think about getting that startling news – the same room. That’s a lot to process.
“Unbelievable,” Forslund said.
For the past 10 days since returning home, Forslund could only sit and wait in his basement, with any sneeze or cough a bit unsettling. Without displaying any symptoms, he was told he could not be tested for coronavirus, even as the Jazz players, coaches and media were being tested.
At the same time, Forslund was extremely thankful his family – wife Natalie and three children – was at home, safe. He said he has been able to hear some of them laughing at times and their mood upbeat, which is reassuring.
“I can’t wait to get fully engaged with the family again. That’s been the hard part,” he said.
Forslund said he has watched little TV other than tuning in to the press conferences by President Trump and the coronavirus task force. Like many, he has gained an appreciation and admiration for Dr. Anthony Fauci, trusting the information provided by the immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease..
“And even when you’re not paying attention you’re thinking about it,” Forslund said. “You think about the kids’ lives being turned upside down and how’s that going to play out. How is the season going to play out and professionally what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of things to think about and I’ve had too much time to think about it.
“It hasn’t been ‘relax, put your feet up and nobody’s going to bother you in the solitude.’ It has been anything but that.”
Forslund, the Canes’ television announcer for 25 years, had been a man on the move this season, calling Canes games while sprinkling in several national games for the NBC Sports network. The air miles and hours were adding up. It was hockey, hockey, hockey.
“Then,” he said, “a screeching halt. It has been a weird change. It’s not like the offseason, when the season ends and now you’re done. You’re not prepared for this and all of a sudden there’s nothing. It comes to an abrupt end, and with all this gray area of where it’s headed.”
Several people have called and texted. Canes forward Justin Williams has checked in on him. Tripp Tracy, the Canes’ TV analyst, checks in daily on his close friend and colleague.
Fox Sports Carolinas has begin re-airing Canes games from this season and had the David Ayres game – the emergency backup goalie coming to the rescue Feb. 22 in Toronto – on Saturday. Forslund has passed on it, just as he has the online simulations of Canes games that have been canceled.
“I just don’t have an appetite for that,” he said. “It does fill a void for the fans, which is terrific.”
Forslund, a New England native and Boston Red Sox fan, said Saturday he was watching some of the replay of the 1978 American League playoff game between the Sox and Yankees on the MLB Network. He knows how that one ended – Bucky Dent’s homer over the Green Monster at Fenway Park keying the Yanks’ victory – but was watching to help pass the time.
A friend, on St. Patrick’s Day, also dropped off the book “A Course Called Ireland.” Written by Tom Coyne, it describes him playing his way, golf hole by golf hole, around the Irish coastline while learning about this family’s roots.
Forslund said he’s trying to stay optimistic that the NHL season can resume at some point, that the health crisis will ease and the threat will pass and there’s a chance of playing games, perhaps the Stanley Cup playoffs. Then again, he understands the timing of it may preclude any more hockey in the 2019-20 season.
“ I just don’t know if it’s do-able if we keep pushing things back,” he said. “If they keep pushing things back I don’t know it makes much sense for hockey.
“At some point we’re going to have to get back to normalcy. I think all sports will play a role in boosting the morale of the country and the economic state of the country. Everyone will be so hungry for it.”