CBJ’s Atkinson cautious about NHL return after family scare with COVD-19

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Caden John Paul Atkinson was born March 28th, the second addition to the family for Cam and Natalie Atkinson.

“I’m not sure how I’m going to describe to [older brother] Declan and Caden how he was born during a pandemic . . . what we had to deal with,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson, an NHL All-Star forward with the Blue Jackets, says his family’s concerns about the pandemic became very personal just days after Caden’s birth. Natalie soon developed a 103-degree fever and then Declan became ill. Neither tested positive for coronavirus and both are now healthy. That experience has significantly shaped Atkinson’s views on whether the NHL should resume its season, which was paused in early March.

“Everyone wants to play, everyone wants a chance to win the Stanley Cup, but at the same time we all have to stay healthy and make the right choices,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson says he’s stayed up to date on conversations about a return to play, and he’s also kept himself in playing shape. Atkinson owns The Battery, a hockey facility in Plain City, so he’s been able to skate from time to time. He’s also met frequently with his trainer and says he’s ready to play if the league opts to continue the season. But will he choose to play?

“The most important thing in this world is family and ultimately staying healthy,” Atkinson said.  “To what risk am I willing to play without a vaccine, put myself at risk and potentially get my family and kids sick or at least be away from them for two months, three months?”

Columbus has been widely rumored as a possible return city for multiple NHL teams to play regular season games in a central location. Teams could potentially be quarantined together and tested frequently. The NHL has made no announcement about how it would structure the rest of the season, nor has the league offered a timetable on when players could return to team facilities.

“If we are in Columbus, we’re obviously not allowed to stay at our houses,” Atkinson said. “So, are guys not going to try to sneak away and see their kids? I live eight minutes away from downtown, so are you telling me I can’t go see my kids?”

Atkinson says he’s using his Force Network Fund charity to further the fight against COVID-19. His foundation is sponsoring a virtual 5K, beginning June 4th to raise money toward a new coronavirus testing machine for Riverside Methodist Hospital. The machine, which Atkinson says will cost about $65,000, will produce test results within hours as opposed to several days.

“It’s going to keep all the healthcare workers, doctors, nurses and of course all the patients healthier,” Atkinson said.

You can sign up for the virtual 5K race at this link: https://runsignup.com/Race/OH/Columbus/ForceNetworkFundVIRTUAL5k

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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