Photo Credit: Toronto Maple Leafs Twitter Account

Early impressions of life inside the NHL bubble

An NHL game is going to be played this week, something a lot of us weren’t sure would occur again in 2020 back in March. We know this because the 24 teams have made their into their respective bubbles in both Toronto and Edmonton, with the last teams arriving on Sunday night.

Along with the excitement of watching a hockey game in August, fans are eager to get a glimpse into what the players are experiencing inside the NHL hub. Fortunately for them, we live in an age of social media so we have some idea of how the players are adjusting to their new homes

Let’s begin our tour by taking a gander into the set-ups being used at Scotiabank Arena and Rogers Place.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I really like the aesthetic in both arenas and how both have implemented some bells and whistles around the rink. With no fans in attendance, I imagine we will also be seeing unique camera angles that would be otherwise impossible if were during normal times. The players themselves seem to like what they see, so that’s a plus.

As the players arrived in their respective bubbles yesterday, there were three common objects that they were carrying.

Last week, a number of Leafs players told Joshua Kloke of The Athletic that they plan on bringing their gaming consoles in their rooms. It looks like a number of players on other teams have done the same, most notably John Klingberg walking to the plane with his monitor in hand.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Players such as Travis Dermott, Tyson Jost, Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, and the New York Islanders have brought a guitar with them into the bubble. This makes me wonder if the players plan on doing a talent show during off days. Is the league going to air a live concert of the players performing their take on “Wonderwall” by Oasis? The world demands answers, and fast!

We also saw a number of players bring with them a Louis Vuitton bag, whether that be a carry-on or a piece of luggage.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

As you may know, the league has altered the rules of the dress code which gives players more freedom to wear whatever they want on their way to the games. This allows the players to use their fashion interests as a way to express themselves, which we’ve seen the NBA pull off successfully over the last few years. If you want further insight into that is a good thing, read MerOutLoud’s great piece on the subject.

While on the surface the players are just carrying bags with them into their rooms, it is one way for fans to relate to players on their favourite teams. Look at the replies of a tweet the Leafs posted with pictures of their players arriving at the Fairmount Royal York to see what I mean. I’m all for players bringing in Louis Vuitton bags and I hope this is a sign that players will be arriving at the rink in some awesome attire. The best bag, however, has to be this player entering the Edmonton hub.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

But what about the hotels themselves, how is the NHL making their players feel right at home in their rooms?

The players that will be staying at Hotel X have a sweet pad, with some of the rooms including a great view of Lake Ontario. I can imagine the players staying at the Fairmount Royal York will be looking forward to when they get to switch hotel rooms just on the view alone. A look out the window of the other hotel is proof of which hotel is in a better spot.

The Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Vancouver Canucks are some of the teams that have decided to make their players feel more at home by plastering the walls with pictures of their logo and the city they represent. The Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators took it a step further by providing pictures of the player’s loved ones in their rooms, which is a nice touch and goes a long way into making the players feel more comfortable in the bubble.

Additionally, the players have been given a buffet stand to grab their meals and a lounge area both inside and outside to help keep them occupied, with a hand sanitizer nearby. They also have to take a bus to practice at the nearby Ford Performance Centre. None of these options compare to the presence of an actual Tim Horton’s truck that provides the players with coffee and donuts, which is the most Canadian thing ever.

So what can we take away from all of this? In the simplest of terms, the NHL has done a great job of helping the players feel snug in their new pads. The arenas seem to be set up well, food options are aplenty, and there are a number of things for the players to do. Players in the Toronto bubble especially are treated to a view of the lake as they play video games or strum their guitars. And there are signs of the players expressing themselves with fashion by carrying Louis Vuitton bags into the hotel.

With a strong first impression of what the players living accommodations look like, the NHL’s Return to Play plan is off to a promising start. Once the puck is dropped for the play-in round, the real test begins to see if this will work.