Exclusive: Sheffield Steelers star admits he's struggled to cope with ice hockey lockdown
Marco Vallerand - arguably the Elite League's most exciting forward - has revealed how the pandemic lockdown has taken its toll on his mental health and wellbeing.
The hockey-loving French Canadian, who recently suffered a knee injury while summer training in Canada, has had sleepless nights and anxiety over how he will be earning a living during the global coronavirus shutdown.
His Sheffield Steelers' team and other EIHL clubs have had operations suspended indefinitely.
And Vallerand finds it hard to believe they will get back on the ice until late in 2021.
The 31-year-old told The Star: "For the first time in my life I’ve experienced anxiety attacks and trouble sleeping.
"Luckily I have friends, family and people around me that helped me a lot through this.
"I’ve also had a little injury this summer skating, so I also had to slow down my training for that but I’m fully fit now.
"Everything is hard right now for us hockey players, not knowing when we will get back to do what we love most, lack of job opportunities, there’s a hundred spots for thousands of hockey players" said 'Vally.'
"I’m ready to move on to the next step of this pandemic by now. It’s irritating at this point to even mention or hear the word Covid for me."
Asked how he'd describe the general strain of the job freeze on sportspeople, Vallerand replied: "Well I can only talk for myself but I’m sure it’s affected a lot of people, not just athletes.
"But in a hockey player situation you have your plans set up. I signed early with Sheffield - I had a time frame and a budget. Now that’s all out the window.
"Not knowing when we will be able to start again affects our decisions in finding a regular job or just something on the side.
"My house payments are still coming even though Covid is taking away my job. So it comes with pressure and decisions to make..."
The former Coventry Blaze man added: "You know with everything that’s going on, it’s been a rough summer.
"I read the John Armstrong article (The Star, September 28) and he’s absolutely right - we hockey players (normally) have that drive and excitement of a new beginning in the summer.
"We build up our training in a way that helps you develop your cardio, strength and transform it into speed and power.
"And that timeframe we usually have is crucial to the plan to be powerful, explosive and endurant when the season starts.
"But with no timeframe everything becomes harder and the motivation takes a hit. I’ve taken a few weeks off here and there because I didn’t see the end of the training coming.#"At this point it’s tough to say if there’s going to be hockey in the UK at all and in some of the best leagues also like the DEL (Germany)" said the winger.
"It takes quite some time to put out a hockey team on the ice so the team needs to make a decision somewhat soon.
"But at this point, with what looks like a second wave of the pandemic, the government won’t let people back in the stands soon enough. That’s just me analysing the sad situation. But I’m pretty sure I’m not far from the truth."
In the meantime the forward has taken a coaching job in Quebec.
"I’m coaching a high school programme of U17s which allows me to be on the ice every day and be as close as it gets to play for the moment."