'We're thinking about them': Blue Jackets' Pierre-Luc Dubois sends care baskets to the elderly

After a week of tough headlines for those living in seniors' homes, Dubois decided to send care packages to everyone living at the Résidence Julie-Viger in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, east of Montreal.

21-year-old NHLer was sending food to his grandparents, who live in Quebec, then decided to think bigger

Lise Dubois with the food from a care package sent to her by her grandson, NHLer Pierre-Luc Dubois. He sent baskets to the people living in all 23 units at Résidence Julie-Viger in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Que., in an effort to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Daphné Dubois)

When the NHL season came to a sudden halt last month, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois decided that if he was going to be locked down, he wanted to be with his family.

So instead of coming back to his home province, Quebec, the 21-year-old drove to Winnipeg where his father Éric, a coach with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, lives and works during the hockey season.

His sister, who lives in Montreal, decided to head west too, so they could all wait out the pandemic together.

"The positive is spending time with the family," Dubois said.

But not everyone in his family could make it.

His grandparents Lise, 73, and Pierre 76, aren't able to leave their home at the Résidence Julie-Viger in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Que., about 30 kilometres east of Montreal.

As seniors, they're part of the most at risk segment of the population to the COVID-19 virus, and they've been isolated for safety.

"It's a scary time. We're on the phone with my grandparents almost everyday, checking in on them," Dubois said.

But calling every day wasn't enough. Dubois wanted to do more.

"I wanted to send them something that could maybe help them out a bit, and I thought, why not include everybody in the building?"

Dubois arranged to have a care basket with groceries delivered to each unit in the residence Tuesday afternoon. It worked out to about 23 baskets in all.

He said they include the basics like crackers, eggs, milk, orange juice, cereal, toast, bread, and a few desserts.

"Everybody has either family or friends that they can't see right now due to the circumstances. I just wanted to send a message to them that we're thinking about them."

Dubois prefers to head straight to the playoffs

Dubois has also been doing a lot of thinking about the NHL season that has been in limbo since the league went on pause in March.

Personally, he was closing in on a third consecutive 20-goal season, and after an up-and-down start to the year, his team had clawed their way into a playoff position. Few expected Columbus to be so competitive after they lost several key players — snipers Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and top goalie Sergei Bobrovsky — in free agency.

Pierre-Luc Dubois was on track for third consecutive 20-goal season when the NHL went on pause in March. (Photo Credit: Jason Priestas)

"The expectations for our team from people on the outside were pretty low this year," Dubois said.

"We knew what kind of team we had, we knew the players we had in the dressing room and what we could accomplish, but we felt like we were getting better and better."

If the NHL is to return this season, he says he'd prefer heading straight into the playoffs.

"Personally, I don't see how we can play the rest of the regular season and playoffs and still have time for next year."

Dubois doesn't like the idea of compressing the 2020-21 season in order to fit in more games to the 2019-20 season. He feels like the 82-game schedule is already tough enough physically, and trying to pack it into a shorter time frame could increase the risk of injury for players.

Learning Italian in the meantime

Aside from his daily calls with his grandparents and working out in his parents' garage, Dubois says he's been spending his days learning Italian.

"I love languages, there are a lot of people who speak Italian in Montreal and Elvis Merzlikins, one of the goalies on our team, speaks Italian."

Dubois said he took a run at learning some Russian first, but found the Cyrillic alphabet too much of a hurdle to overcome, so he turned to Italian because it's closer to his native tongue — French.

He's been working on it daily and is optimistic about being able to converse in the language soon.

"I'm pretty committed right now, I'm watching shows in Italian and putting English subtitles so hopefully it pays off," he said.

Like the food baskets did at his grandparents' residence, Dubois is hoping his newly acquired language skills might brighten the day for his second family — his teammates — when hockey resumes.

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