Why Nick Ritchie faces a steeper uphill climb than most with NHL’s potential return this summer

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Nick Ritchie never imagined he’d find himself in a spot like this. 

Of course, it’s one thing to pack your things and go from the sunny beaches of Anaheim to Boston in the whirlwind of a couple hours. But such cross-country inconvenience is a scenario that comes with the territory as a pro athlete, one that Ritchie experienced firsthand when he was dealt from the Ducks to Boston shortly ahead of the NHL trade deadline in February.

No, we’re not talking about the move to a new club. Rather, Ritchie didn’t expect he’d be spending the late spring at his family’s horse farm — situated up in Ontario.

“I cleaned a few stalls and the horses, they're race horses — harness racing — so cleaning stalls and I guess throwing a few hay bales,” Ritchie said Wednesday of his regular chores. “But it's more just to help out my dad and my parents. I guess there's some physical activity with that, but most of the working out has been your standard stuff."

Like many others NHLers still seeking more clarity on the future of the 2019-20 campaign, Ritchie is doing what he can to in order to keep his conditioning up, bracing for what could be a resumption of play that carries over into the middle of fall.

Of course, shaking off the rust stands as just one of the hurdles potentially facing Ritchie in the coming months, given that the newcomer only logged seven games with his new team before the B's season hit pause following a win over the Flyers back on March 10.

The physical power forward managed to avoid one logistical headache, renting a condo in Boston and shipping out his car and other possessions to the East Coast before COVID-19 gripped the country and grinded things down to a halt. But the lack of day-to-day interactions with new regular teammates obviously put deadline acquisitions like Ritchie a step behind many others during this ongoing pause.

"It's been tough where we haven't seen the team or obviously practiced or anything," Ritchie said. "I was there for such a little time, I think I didn't get to know everybody. ... So that kind of sucked that the pause happened, but we've been having talks once a week on Zoom here and just been talking and just kind of feels like you're kind of back in a locker room for an hour or so. So that's all we can do right now and it's been pretty good."

But beyond the expected challenges involved with settling into a new locker room, Ritchie faces an even more daunting uphill battle in terms of