This has been my longest running stop-and-start column as a journalist.

I’m nearing the completion of my 18th year at The Chronicle-Journal, and during that time I have never experienced something as jarring to the world — let alone the entire sports landscape — as the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak or the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gosh, am I tired of writing those two terms. I miss the days when I had to reach back into my sports-soaked brain to find other ways to identify a “defenceman.” (hint: blueliner, rearguard, D-man, on the back end)

I pray everyone is taking great care in social distancing and respecting the severity of this pandemic. We hope everyone is taking heed of our medical professionals and health care providers and the advice they give us. Remember, God gave these men and women the gift of knowledge and patience to deal with these situations in the darkest of times.

Simply, I would like to thank them. Thank you.

The reason I started to write this column and then stopped was because the COVID-19 case became more complex and scarier by the day. Never mind the cancellations or postponements of our favourite sports, the outbreak is doing quite the number on our economy with closures across the board. Sadly, The Chronicle-Journal has not been immune to such cuts.

At first, I wanted to use humour throughout this column to deflect the growing fear. Then I felt I needed to stick to sports since that’s what I do.

Instead, I choose belief. Belief that this shall pass despite losses and hardships already suffered and likely more to come. Belief that hope and faith lies within everyone struggling with this reality. Belief that my family and your family is going to be OK in the end.

I believe we will. I took my four-year-old daughter, Katelynn, for a walk earlier this week. I told her we would only be going around the block once to get some fresh air.

She asked: “Because of the virus?” We have talked about it and why she might miss the rest of her first year of kindergarten.

I nervously replied, “Not really,” yet she held my hand just a littletighter anyway. Two houses later, Katelynn loosened her grip and we talked about her Frozen 2 sticker book collection.

So, dear readers, let’s get back to discussing “stickers” for the time being. During my rookie year with the Fort Frances Times in 2001, my weekly sports column was, for better or worse, titled, “A Reuben with A View.” (punny, I know)

I vowed not to use it when I moved back to Thunder Bay. But like my dust-covered dumbbells and treadmill, I am bringing it out of retirement to branch out on all topics of sports, both in and out of Northwestern Ontario, on a more regular basis.

I certainly won’t be ignoring the real world in this space, but I’ll do my best to provide a 20-second timeout.

For now, I’m going to miss writing and editing our normal amount of stories about our area athletes and their achievements.

I’m also going to miss the intensity of playoff hockey — whether that’s cheering on the Edmonton Oilers (imagine, a Battle of Alberta in the first round was a real possibility!) or helping cover the Thunder Bay North Stars’ quest for back-to-back Superior International Junior Hockey League championships.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the movie Cast Away, which is fitting since we are all like Tom Hanks’ character, Chuck Nolan, in doing our own social distancing these days.

Nolan reflects how he took facing the unknown on that desolate island one day at a time:

“And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”

Sun’s up. Time to believe.

Reuben Villagracia is the sports editor of The Chronicle-Journal. Contact him at rvillagracia@ chroniclejournal.com. Follow @cjsports_tb on Twitter.

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