Bill's Bubble - Life in the NHL Bubble - Week 6
I have officially been in the bubble for three months now… July, August and September. Although I guess I am cheating a bit, as it’s actually only been 40 days from July 27 to September 4, not three months. I feel a bit like Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Cast Away’, but rest assured I have not adopted Wilson nor grown dreadlocks and a beard. I don’t think Mr. Bettman would approve of that look! I certainly now have a better appreciation for the mental impact of being a soldier stationed overseas or an oil worker in Saudi, as time away from family (including our dog Chloe) and friends is definitely taxing.
It has been interesting getting to know a number of new folks in the Bubble, including Rick from the Vancouver off-ice crew and his son Kiel, who is an NHL linesman here in the Bubble. How great that they get to experience and create this memory together! There are so many people on the front line and behind the scenes here who have taken time from their families and lives to support these playoffs. We have some time on our hands during the day now, so it’s enjoyable to have a coffee in the yard or post-game beer in the social room, sharing stories and experiences. Hearing about where they have worked and what they have seen in the world certainly reinforces the benefits of travel; there is so much to learn out there! Unfortunately, we must wait for Covid to loosen its grip before we can set sail or hit the skies!
The hockey has been fantastic most nights, with rivalries deepening and the intensity increasing. The players are here to win, and give it their all, despite missing the boisterous fan support in the stands. Some nights are crazy busy for the crew, such as during a recent Colorado vs Dallas game where we logged nearly 450 events, including 150 hits. The off-ice officials peer down at the game below, quickly recording hits, shots, blocked shots, missed shots, giveaways, takeaways, face-offs, penalties and stoppages. And a shot or blocked shot, for example, is not just one piece of information – it includes who shot it, where on the ice the player was, and what kind of shot it was – slap shot, wrist shot, etc. Those 450 events equate to about 7.5 events per minute, so little time for us to actually “watch” the game! Knowing that the viewing audience, not to mention the teams’ stats people, are watching the stats closely adds a definite layer of pressure. Rick did have a slight delay in recording a penalty the other night, as he searched under the “I’s” to record an embellishment call. The pressure does strange things to one’s mind!
The more time we spend here, the more I see the professional players and coaches like our own sons, brothers and fathers, each with their own unique personality. I was sitting in the Marriott lounge area reading my book, when I noticed Marc-Andre Fleury, the consummate joker, playing a version of hide-and-seek / peek-a-boo with a few teammates. Later, catching a glimpse of Corey Perry enjoying a solo post-game meal and wine in Studio 99, you realize that everyone needs some quiet alone time just to relax. The next day, as you pass Robin Lehner having lunch with teammates in ‘the yard’, you hear them laughing and teasing each other. Each have such differing backgrounds, from Corey’s outstanding career (winning the Memorial Cup, Stanley Cup, two Olympics, a World Championship and a Hart trophy), three-time Stanley Cup Fleury back-stopping the expansion Knights to a game 7 Cup loss in their inaugural season, and Lehner overcoming substance abuse, bipolar, ADHD and PTSD conditions. These fellas have been blessed with buckets of raw talent, but it takes so much more than talent to be successful. Effort, commitment, respect and a dose of Responsibility! Just like the rest of us!
There are some times when you see things that remind you of the level of security within and around the Bubble. It was interesting watching a chocolate Labrador and his two handlers do a quick explosives search throughout the arena one day. The dog ran, off-leash, jumping up and sniffing each garbage container for a couple seconds, then on to the next one. I could see the bond between dog and handler, built no doubt, after hours of training and fun together. Whoever said “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” never owned a dog. You may have many good friends, but your dog is your unconditional friend! Thanks Holly and Chase, from Chloe and I, for all your support! I miss you Chloe … dad will be home soon.