Representatives from all three of MLS's Canadian clubs took to the airwaves on Tuesday, joining TSN for interviews on the COVID-19 pandemic and how they're working through an unprecedented moment in history.
Montreal Impact president and CEO Kevin Gilmore summed up in simple terms what all teams in Major League Soccer — and business all over the world — are going through as they try to plan for the future during the crisis.
"Planning when you've lived something before or there's a precedent is much easier than planning when you're experiencing something that's never happened," Gilmore said. "There's no precedent. It's not like, 'The last time this happened after three weeks it past' — we don't have the benefit of that. So we kind of have to live it day-by-day.
"We know that we have an influence on people," he added. "Fans have a passionate and emotional connection with teams and clubs and leagues and players, and if we can use that connection to send a message to stay home and follow the precautions and guidelines of the public health authorities — if we can do that — we will do our best to pass that message along."
The uncertainty regarding a timeline for the return to training and play certainly makes for a difficult variable. Players who had gone through intense preseason training and were just getting into form now can't train together and have to find ways to stay fit on their own.
Toronto FC president Bill Manning said that the club is doing its best to be in communication with the players constantly, giving them fitness programs they can follow on their own and making sure they're up to date on the latest information that's being disseminated. Manning also said that players that are currently need to use team facilities to rehab injuries, like Michael Bradley and Pablo Piatti, have been able to do so in one-on-one sessions with trainers that include necessary precautions to keep both parties safe.
"We're trying to stay in steady communication," Manning said. "We set up home workout programs for all our players, we're actually looking into having our chef prepare meals that we can deliver to our players. Every day, every other day [we send] an email just making sure they're aware of what's going on and anything new that's coming from the league. And just trying to make sure the guys take every precaution they can, they stay at home and are safe and doing their part to make sure that we don't spread this."
What are @TorontoFC doing to keep their players ready to play during this break? Club President Bill Manning fills us in and provides some updates on Michael Bradley and Pablo Piatti #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/KAxB8g1fB2— TSN Soccer (@TSNSoccer) March 19, 2020
Added Gilmore: "Athletes are creatures of habit, they're used to being together. They're also used to having a very structured day, structured week, structured life. So, I can imagine it's something that's difficult for them, some may handle it better than others. But we've got not only our training staff, our coaching staff, but also our medical staff on hand to address and assess and help with any issues, physical or otherwise, that our players might have."
Vancouver Whitecaps CEO Mark Pannes agreed that planning for the future is simply a fluid situation at this point, while no one knows what the timeline will be for a return, but that the Whitecaps are like everyone else in trying to make the best decisions they can on the fly. MLS announced on Thursday it was extending its season suspension to a target return date of May 10.
"I think the league — and I think every business is doing a full set of contingency planning," Pannes said. "There's a thousand what-ifs and they're trying to run through all of them. ...I think about when this started, even just a couple weeks ago when its intensity really blew up, our thinking today is so evolved relative to then, and I would say we're still on the very front end of this. So, everyone's doing all the contingency planning they can, always with player and fan safety first, and then — we all want to play football. That's the thing. We want to bring the joy of the game to as many people as possible."
"I have a good network in Europe and I have a lot of connections there, so my phone's not stopping," Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster added. "You have to be creative. Now is not the time to discuss in the wrong way, everybody has to be open to give some things up and I think that's showing now. And that's a good thing, that football is united all over the world, that anybody is open to help anybody and to find the right solutions to come back to the game at the right time and to give back the joy to the people to be in the stadium, to follow our game.