Tommy Lyons has never committed a crime and been sentenced to solitary confinement (at least not that we know of), but the teenaged forward for the Chilliwack Chiefs now has a tiny little sense of what that’d be like.
Upon arriving in Chilliwack three weeks ago via Massachusetts, Calgary and Abbotsford, the 20-year-old forward was transported by Chiefs trainer Brain Patafie to a remote camp in the woods near Chilliwack and there he stayed for 14 days.
His only non-electronic human contact was with chef Tommy Grace, who cooked delicious meals and left them outside his door.
“He was amazing, and I was very lucky to have him there,” Lyons said. “It was something I looked forward to every day, eating whatever he prepared for me.”
Now of course, lawbreakers in jail don’t eat nearly so well and there were other differences between the Lyons experience and that of a hardened criminal. Criminals spend most of their days in tiny windowless cells. Lyons was able to get out for exercise on a beautiful forest trail. He had access to a full gym with hockey nets and basketball hoops, wifi, a video game console and other amenities not available in your average max security prison.
“I was only allowed to access certain portions of the campsite, but the trail was really cool,” Lyons said. “I had a room to myself with a sink and bathroom and a little fridge. After the first day I was pretty bored, but once I created a little routine for myself, the days went faster and I actually ended up enjoying it.”
The camp experience, made necessary due to COVID-19, capped off a surreal experience getting from his east coast home to his west coast hockey home.
“I was definitely pretty nervous when I left, but the track record of Americans getting through the Calgary border was pretty high, and I had a few friends who went through the week before,” Lyons said. “I was confident, but I was also worried I’d be spending the night in Calgary and flying home the next day.”
Lyons worst fears seemed to be coming true when he arrived in Alberta
“I had to go through customs in Calgary and they sent me to immigration,” Lyons recalled. “I handed them my documentation and they told me to sit down. I was waiting in a room for about 45 to 50 minutes while they reviewed all my papers.
“I was very nervous and it felt like it took a really long time, but then I was approved, and I’m very glad it worked out.”
The border people in Calgary asked Lyons where he was going to be quarantining, and he was happy the Chiefs had all their ducks in a row.
“That was their main question, and I’m happy the self-quarantine plan for myself and other players was air-tight,” Lyons said.
Sounds like a massive headache to play hockey, but Lyons was resolute from the day last season ended that he was coming back to Chilliwack.
“Throughout the summer I was locked in, and I was talking to (Chiefs) coach (Brian) Maloney once a week in September,” Lyons said. “I spent the back half of last season in Chilliwack and loved every part of it. I had a bunch of friends coming back too, so I was always going to make an effort, and it was just a matter of picking a smart time to do it.”
Now it’s kind of sort of back to normal for Lyons, who rejoined the Chiefs a week ago and was in the lineup for ‘extended training camp’ games against Surrey last weekend.
“It’s different with no one in the rink, and the whole thing over the last three weeks still feels a bit surreal,” he said. “The first day out of quarantine definitely didn’t feel real and the whole thing was a crazy experience.
“For me to get back in the rink with my teammates and get back into a routine is awesome and I’m happy to be here.”