Life in the NHL Bubble - Week 2
The NHL has completed 20 games successfully over 11 days, with no sign of that nasty little bug anywhere … can’t say its name for fear of waking up the beast – lol!
Daily throat swabs, temperature testing at every entry point (via CLEAR app), and face masks galore have kept the integrity of the Bubble intact. That is quite an accomplishment and a testament to the planning that went into this experiment and the commitment exercised by all participants, from players to officials to security at the gates. Well done I say!
Staying warm while working the games continues to be a challenge. The NHL is allowing the off-ice official crew upstairs to add a sweater layer to the official uniform as long as it does not display any logo other than Adidas. I personally have opted for a long sleeved neoprene layer under my dress shirt, and have complimented my uniform with self-designed fingerless mini mitts and heat packs. The fellas at ice level are wearing two pairs of socks to keep their feet warm and dry. When I escape to the heat of the courtyard for a break between games, I look like a reptile sunning itself.
The games are now starting to sound and feel a bit more traditional, as we now get to hear some of the ‘crowd noise’ after a great crushing hit. The home team’s post goal music is played, as well as their traditional celebrations such as the coyote howl for Arizona. We also hear lots of colourful language from the players as the play goes on since there are no ‘real’ crowd noises to block out the on-ice chatter. Cool to hear the camaraderie and rivalries!
The restaurants in the Bubble are very popular, including Chop, Braven and Loft 102. The food and service has been fantastic, but nothing replaces a good home cooked meal! Hopefully I have not outgrown my clothes by the time October rolls around!
It is interesting seeing so many professional athletes in such a relaxed state, simply enjoying themselves like everyday citizens. Petterson and Horvat shooting hoops in the courtyard, Lucic and Gaudreau enjoying a glass of red wine, and McDavid and Draisaitl warming up with a soccer ball are some of what I have seen as I pass by. Professional athletes always seem to be on stage, and under the microscope, in a make-believe world. It is refreshing to see them as just another guy, kids at heart, getting to be themselves and play their game.
Our days are long, with each off-ice official working two of the three daily games. We start each day with early morning throat swabs, followed by our team meeting, then shuttle to Rogers Place. We work in ‘the cooler’, sun for a few minutes in the courtyard, and return home to the hotel around midnight to unwind before we hit repeat for the next day. It is a bit of a grind at times, but our team is enjoying the experience and fantastic NHL playoff hockey. I am truly a lucky guy to be given this opportunity and am storing away some memories that will last a lifetime! And now …. off to the rink!
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