Come back to the game, prepare for the ‘formidable challenge’ of central cities for the NHL


The NHL is trying to make it easy. It’s the contrary. It is nothing less than a historic enterprise, something we have never seen before and hope to never see again.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, which interrupted the season on March 12 and disrupted society around the world, the NHL is returning with its biggest and most complex event of all time. Starting from scratch, on the fly, in a matter of weeks it creates a whole new way to compete, live and watch while protecting everyone.The NHL is hosting an unprecedented 24-team tournament in Edmonton and Toronto from August 1 to October 4. It puts teams and staff at ease while limiting them to secure areas and forcing them to follow strict protocols. He changes the presentation of the game without fans in the stands.


The obstacles are immense, the details innumerable. The NHL makes the most of a bad situation. No wait. This is an understatement. The goal is to turn a bad situation into something spectacular – creative, different and made for TV, yet worthy of the Stanley Cup tradition.

“It’s unheard of,” said NHL content director Steve Mayer, who oversees production and has been in Edmonton for 11 days already. “It’s a great challenge. Each of us is just welcoming him. You know, like, “bring it on” is the general call. Like, let’s do it.

“I think when you’re in events, you kind of look for times like this where you grab everything and run with it, and in some ways we’re crazy. We have a loose screw. But we love that stuff. This is what we are all made for. This is what we do. ”

Remember, the regular season was buzzing as usual, then one day it stopped. There was no playbook to consult. Worse yet, there was no certainty as to how the pandemic would unfold. Worse yet, the situation was developing differently, in terms of coronavirus and local government responses, in each NHL market.

Long story short, the NHL determined that it had to return to NHL arenas because of the infrastructure it offered. He drew up a list of the items needed in a central city and asked for proposals. Working with the NHL Players Association and health officials, he developed the return to play plan.

The NHL thought the plate cities would be Las Vegas and Vancouver, then switched to Edmonton and Toronto for security and logistical reasons. This increased the degree of difficulty.

“We wasted two weeks when we decided not to go,” Mayer said, “because we were planning specifically for these two locations”.

The NHL has essential infrastructure and experience in hosting games both away and abroad. He played in cities from Shanghai to Stockholm and built ice rinks in baseball and football stadiums. He also hosted the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at what is now a hub, the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Veteran event staff know how to resolve issues and have a proactive attitude.

This, however, is the ultimate test for every department in the NHL.

“It couldn’t be done as well as it will be if we don’t have this team in place,” Mayer said. “The difference between this event and all the other events that we have hosted, we have had almost every opportunity at least a year to prepare, and (any of) our events can fit into a tenth of that.

“There isn’t an event that we have organized that can compare remotely to the magnitude of this one, because we have never had to open the restaurants. We’ve never had to build team lounges. We never needed coaching rooms in several places. We have never had to put up fences around a city. We never had any security details, even from a distance, like this one. And we certainly never had tests for 900 people at two sites. ”

You can’t, for example, simply partner with local chefs to open two restaurants in Edmonton to give customers more options in the secure area, including a sushi restaurant in Rogers Place. You must do this without transmitting the coronavirus.

“You have to make sure the seats are social distanced,” Mayer said. “We have to do a cleanse after each session. The way the servers go out, they need to be educated on how they present the food. The menus, many of them will be online. You access a bar code that is on your table and the menu appears on your phone. Here are the different aspects of what once was, and it wasn’t easy, but it was …

“One step is now 10 steps. There is no decision that is made without consulting the medical team, understanding the protocol and how it fits, and that makes it so much more difficult. ”

And I hope so much more rewarding. If the NHL is successful, the team that wins the Stanley Cup will have accomplished something that will be remembered forever. The same will be true for the team that made this possible.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the Stanley Cup award would be a “relief.”

“The long journey,” said Commissioner Bettman, “still has many miles to go”.


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