Mueller Adjusting to San Diego Life Amid COVID-19 Restrictions
The veteran forward and his wife welcomed their fourth child during this unprecedented time.May 6, 2020
By Andy Zilch/SanDiegoGulls.com
While these are trying times, life still goes on, and begins in some cases. Already a father of three, Gulls forward Chris Mueller and his wife were anticipating the best possible day that could occur during quarantine.
In what could be a stressful occasion even in the best circumstances, the Muellers welcomed their third daughter, Oakley Ren, April 7 at Jacobs Medical Center at UC San Diego Health.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Mueller, who remained in San Diego with his family after the AHL season was suspended in mid-March. “Going through what the whole world is going through right now, we were a little nervous. She was born right in the midst when everyone was very scared, not knowing a whole lot of information. The birth of a child already makes you nervous enough, just making sure your wife is okay, you have a healthy child, and everything goes right.”
Hospitals posed a worrisome mentality to all without symptoms of COVID-19. The Mueller family’s worries were put to ease because of the medical care they received five years ago. Now in his second stint with the Gulls, the veteran forward began his family in San Diego during the inaugural 2015-16 season with the birth of his son, Jacob.
“Unfortunately, nobody really wants to be around hospitals nowadays with the unknown,” said the 34-year old forward. “My wife delivered Jacob in La Jolla. They did an unbelievable job, the nurses and doctors. We couldn’t have felt safer and more relaxed during the whole birth (this time). Probably our easiest one to be honest. Everything was awesome.”
Mueller was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning Dec. 30, 2019 and the forward reunited with the city he once called home. And now, Jacob is the oldest of four children. Former neighbors and friends were astonished at how quickly life moves with the growth of what was once a baby boy. He is joined by three other siblings who anxiously anticipated the new addition.
“My boy has been very good,” said Mueller in regards to Jacob handling the arrival of Oakley. “Sailor, who just turned three, has been amazing. She’s like a little mom and always wants to hold her. Lakelin, who is two years old, has been tough. She doesn’t really understand that she’s not the baby anymore and that mom needs to put her effort into the newborn for a little bit here. It’s been tough with her, but all in all, everyone is healthy and happy, so that’s all you can ask for.”
Generally, the birth of a new child is a whole family experience. However, quarantine guidelines pose a different experience for Mueller’s extended family. In addition, Oakley’s birth created a new experience for Chris as a father. Everything was executed with safety in mind.
“My wife is from Michigan and my family is in Buffalo,” said the West Seneca, N.Y. native. “No one has been here since she’s been born just because no one is flying or traveling, There has been no family or friends at the hospital or even the apartment since she’s been here with us.”
Although the circumstances are unorthodox, Mueller has nothing but great things to say about the care the family received.
“As far as the procedure goes, I was the only one allowed in the room and I had to wear a mask,” he reminisced. “No shaking hands or anything. It was definitely weird, but they made it feel so safe and comfortable for my wife. It was the first time I’ve been in there, but it’s probably second to none in the nation as far as Jacobs Medical Center and how unbelievable the people were.”
The quarantine is a blessing in disguise and gives a rugged journeyman some quality family time in a timeframe where he would not have that luxury. The date of Oakley's birth was on the last scheduled week of the AHL season. More specially, a time where the Gulls would have been attempting to finalize their playoff position or even clinch a berth in the postseason. As a father, he is taking what he can get and also giving appreciation to his wife.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to be around family and you miss your kids and wife when you’re on the road or away from them,” said Mueller. “On the other side, it gives stay-at-home moms another check in my book as far as the job they do. People think that the wives that stay at home have it easy. I think I’d rather work 20 hours a day and have a little bit of a break because it is intense.
"It definitely wears on your patience and makes you build your patience up. I definitely appreciate all that the moms and the wives do when we’re allowed to go and release some of our frustration on the ice.”
As we await what’s to come and a hopeful return to normalcy and the lifestyle San Diegans are accustomed to, the Muellers couldn’t be happier with the return to San Diego and more specifically the organization that they have fell in love with.
“We absolutely loved it and thought this was the best place to live on earth when we were here,” said Mueller on returning to the organization. “We would joke that if I ever won the lottery, we would retire here. When I got traded, I was so excited to come back here just because of the city, the people, the beautiful weather and the ocean. There’s so many things that you like about San Diego, it’s hard to remember all of them.”
After completing the 2015-16 season with the Gulls, Mueller spent one season in Tucson, two in Toronto (where he won a Calder Cup in 2018), and began this season in Syracuse.
“I think they’ve really figured out the best way to do things,” said Mueller on how the team is run from a hockey operations and business perspective. “The organization, Jillian (Reddin) and Jillian’s family, are absolutely second to none as far as ownership and how they treat their players.”
That goes along with the way the ownership has treated their employees. When the pandemic began, the Samueli family, owners of the Anaheim Ducks, Honda Center, Gulls, and nine local ice rinks in Orange and San Diego counties, informed part-time employees of their sports and event management companies all 2,100 part-time staff members will be paid for current or future rescheduled, postponed or canceled events through June 30.
As life goes on, the Muellers welcomed Oakley into an unorthodox world, but one with countless displays of how a community has come together. From healthcare personnel, first responders and front line workers, business owners and responsible citizens, each are giving San Diego residents a chance to prove we really are America’s Finest City.