UMass hockey alums Cory Quirk, Greg Mauldin scramble to get home from Europe

  • Cory Quirk, left, who plays in a German hockey league, and Greg Mauldin, right, who plays in Norway, arrive from Europe at Logan International Airport in Boston, Friday, March, 13, 2020. The season for both has been suspended due to concern over the coronavirus. Beginning at midnight Friday most Europeans will be banned from entering the United States for 30 days to try to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Americans returning from Europe will be subject to enhanced health screening. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) AP

Staff Writer
Published: 3/16/2020 3:39:46 PM

At 2 o’clock in the morning, there isn’t much time for nuance.

When President Donald Trump delivered his address from the Oval Office last Wednesday evening, it was already early Thursday morning for Greg Mauldin and Cory Quirk, two UMass hockey alums who were playing in Europe. Mauldin was sleeping when Trump announced a travel ban from Europe, while Quirk happened to be awake with his 2-year-old son.

Both received text messages from loved ones in the United States about the Trump speech, and the rush to return home began. The various corrections from the White House in the following hours only heightened the confusion, and the mad scramble began to get back to Boston as soon as possible.

“We’ve been told so many different things about what President Trump was saying,” said Mauldin, who played this season with the Stavanger Oilers in Norway. “There was a lot of uncertainty about whether we could get back, whether we would be let in and a lot of us weren’t willing to take that chance that we weren’t allowed to get in or that the airplanes would just stop and all the flights would be non-operational.”

Based on the information being texted to him in the middle of the night, Quirk booked a flight for his wife, two sons and himself out of Germany, where he was playing with the Fischtown Pinguins, to London then to Boston on Saturday. As the corrections came in, he spent the morning working with Delta to change his flights to Friday, making a stop in Amsterdam before heading to Boston.

The Quirks coincidentally were on the same flight from Amsterdam to Boston as Mauldin and former Boston College winger Joe Whitney, who plays in Finland, both of whom had similar experiences to Quirk.

“We went from one week we’re preparing for our playoffs and getting ready to start our first round matchup (last) Thursday to one day we found out that the league would be canceling the rest of the season,” Mauldin said. “From there it was a mad scramble of packing up your stuff, cleaning your apartment and just getting out of the country.”

The locker rooms were not immune from talk about COVID-19, especially as the situation grew worse in Italy over the past few weeks. Quirk said he and his family were actually supposed to vacation in Rome during a break in the season in early February, but decided against it with two people testing positive in the Italian capital. He said he tried his best to avoid thinking about the situation when he was at the rink, but it became more difficult as more European leagues put out precautions.

In Norway, the chatter among Mauldin and his teammates was slightly different. Most European leagues had finished paying their players with the regular season completed, so those players were only owed any playoff bonuses from their contracts. The Norwegian league still owed players an April paycheck, and how players were planning to deal with the loss of income was a topic of conversation.

Both luckily and unluckily for Mauldin, he was dealing with a ruptured tendon in his hamstring, so he was guaranteed his April wages through the team’s insurance. However, the scramble to get home to the United States left Mauldin with plenty of unanswered questions about his rehab. Once the league shut down, most of the front office members filed for unemployment and therefore couldn’t help the players, who had to make a choice between filing for unemployment themselves or trying to go home.

“I was doing rehab there and lucky enough, I can do the rehab here, I know the exercises and stuff I need to do,” Mauldin said. “It’s a matter of the insurance, if I go to a clinic, how is that going to work out? It’s probably going to be one of those things where I have to pay out of pocket and send them the receipts and they’ll send me the money back. But yeah, there was a lot of stuff like that that was just left up in the air. ... Luckily, the people who were doing my physical therapy were helping me out, but to get everything done within 24 hours was quite a struggle.”

Before any of the professional leagues in the United States, it was the European leagues that made decisions to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Swiss league first played games without fans at the end of February, causing Quirk and his teammates to have questions about their March 8 season finale in Berlin, where 12,000 people ended up in attendance that night. Two days later, the German league shut down for the season.

He said he believes the leagues did the right thing by canceling the season when it did because of the lack of information the public had about the virus and its effects on the community. He said he’s even taking extra precautions now that he’s back in the United States to limit the spread among his family and friends.

“I’m glad teams and organizations and leagues are taking the initiative and canceling,” Quirk said Saturday. “It’s kind of still pretty new and people don’t understand how it’s spreading. Even us, we’re quarantining ourselves for a couple of weeks to make sure we’re OK around people.”


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