Family and loved ones at forefront of coronavirus outbreak give Alain Vigneault time to think big picture


Alain Vigneault is passionate about coaching hockey.

In his 17th year as an NHL head coach, he's as passionate as ever about winning a Stanley Cup.

And in the first year of this new endeavor, in a market that shares his passion for championships, Vigneault has the Flyers on track.

But they're at a stop and Vigneault is OK with it.

With the suspension of the 2019-20 NHL season because of the coronavirus outbreak, there is no peevish feeling for the coach who turns 59 years old in May, not when he has daily perspective from his loved ones.

If any frustration or impatience does seep in, he can think of people like his girlfriend Monica Cotton and his sister Nicole Vigneault, as well as his parents who are self-isolated in their mid-80s. Vigneault's girlfriend is an emergency nurse, his sister works in health care and his parents are in senior living.

Back home in Gatineau, Quebec, Vigneault is just playing his part.

My girlfriend here in Gatineau is an emergency nurse at Ottawa Hospital, so she’s been on the forefront," he said Wednesday on a conference call. "She’s very impressed with how her bosses have really handled this, she feels very secure when the ambulances and when people come in. They’ve set up a real good way of doing things where she can do her job, feel safe and help the public.

My sister works for Quebec Health and she’s been on forefront of this. Between discussions with them, making sure parents are all right, daughters are all right and friends, you keep yourself busy, you talk to people.

If you can help, you help in any way or shape possible. We’re all staying at home and trying to do the right things not to spread the virus. If we can help in any other way, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’m sure that’s what everyone’s trying to do.

The Flyers have gone 50 days and counting without playing a game. Prior to the hiatus, they had won nine of their last 10 games and were 19-6-1 since Jan. 8, a stretch in which they were tied with the Bruins for the NHL's most points at 39. They have 13 games left on their regular-season schedule, are a top-six team in the league and one point behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals.

However, for Vigneault, wins and losses pale in comparison to the pandemic.

"As far as feeling any sense of frustration because the season has been suspended and our climb to the top has been put on hold, I do not feel any frustration and I don't think I should or any of our players should," Vigneault said Wednesday in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Taryn Hatcher. "With what the world is going through, with what people are going through at this time, the challenges that are out there for society and individually for some businesses and people, there are a lot bigger things than hockey right now. Smart people and science are trying to find solutions to the problem that we have. Let's let those smart people find those solutions and then we'll be able to get back and do our part for society."

Vigneault is remaining optimistic about sports eventually resuming. He believes they'll eventually help society return to some type of normalcy.

As for the Flyers, he's determined to have them ready to roll again — for everyone.

“That’s going to be our challenge," Vigneault said. "There’s no doubt that we were playing our best hockey of the season at that time, but I don’t think we can go into this showing any signs of emotional frustration. With how the world has been put on pause and what people are going through right now, when we come back, we can help them by doing the best job that we can as far as playing on the ice.

"We’ll be exactly like everybody else [in the league], we’ll have the exact same amount of time, our team was in a good place. It’s going to be all of our jobs — from coaches to management to players — to get back to that spot that we were in.”

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