NHL players and staff arrive in Edmonton, Toronto ahead of restart

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NHL players were eager to see what life would be like in the bubble.They had a first taste on Sunday.

The 24 teams – each with a traveling group of 52 people – ready to help restart the league have entered secure areas in two Canadian cities ahead of the resumption of the 2019-20 season, interrupted by the pandemic.

Players and staff have checked into closely guarded hotels inside the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, where they will be separated from the general population by security fences and undergo daily COVID-19 testing.

“We’re just excited to get into our setup,” Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman said on Saturday. “Walk into the hotel, see what’s available, see the lounges. ”

People entering Canada are typically required to self-isolate for a mandatory 14 days upon arrival, but the federal government has approved the modified NHL cohort quarantine plan – 18 of the 24 teams involved in the restart are based in the United States – paving the way for matches. will be held north of the 49th parallel.

Each bubble has 14 restaurants for players and staff, as well as a concierge service for deliveries.

‘Very unique situation’

“The really unique thing about this is that we’re going to be with each other 24/7,” Hyman said of his teammates. “It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen very often.

“It’s a very unique situation. ”

Despite a number of COVID-19 hotspots across the United States, the league reported only two positive tests during the first week of training camps. The NHL has acknowledged that it expects there to be positive tests inside the bubbles, adding that it has a plan to deal with it.

WATCH | Edmonton and Toronto “bubbles” details:

The NHL has released detailed information on what Toronto and Edmonton will look like for the NHL teams they host. Find out what the living conditions of the players will be like. 4:51

“My confidence level increased along the way,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said recently of his feelings about resuming a season that was put on hold in mid-season. March. “I am comfortable with the protocols and procedures that we have in place. And most importantly, I’m comfortable with how all the players seem to have embraced them, taken them seriously and respected them. ”

BMO Field – normally the headquarters of Toronto FC, MLS and CFL Argonauts – is part of this city’s bubble, serving as an outdoor recreation center.

«Business as usual»

“It’s pretty impressive what they’ve been able to do together in just over three weeks, a month,” said Toronto defenseman Tyson Barrie. “Looks like it’s gonna be great food and they’ll have some stuff set up for us, but at the end of the day when you’re in the playoffs you don’t do much anyway. You just played the game, practice, go home and rest, eat well.

“Apart from maybe some fresh air, it will be business as usual. ”

Practices will be closed to media as teams prepare for exhibition matches starting Tuesday.

The Eastern Conference teams are in Toronto, while the Western Conference clubs are in Edmonton for the first three rounds. The Stanley Cup Conference and Finals will take place in the capital of Alberta.

The best-of-five qualifying round kicks off on Saturday, with a ranking tournament for the top four teams from each conference. The Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks are all in the qualifying round.

Four-time Grammy winner Michael Buble is set to perform the national anthems for the opener next weekend, while video game company EA Sports is set to make the noise of the crowd at the interior of Scotiabank Arena and Rogers Place, without fans.

The NHL, which entered the final stages of its reboot the same day it was announced, four-time Cup winner Eddie Shack has passed away and Hall of Fame center Dale Hawerchuk is battling cancer for the second times, plans to use individual teams’ goal horns and chants to add to the atmosphere.

At one of two bubble locations in Toronto, a major intersection was blocked near the Fairmont Royal York Hotel as the team buses arrived, while a van from DynaLIFE Medical Labs, which performs the COVID-19 test, was seen entering Hotel X at Exhibition Place just west of downtown. The league insists its tests will not reduce public resources in the two jurisdictions.

Indigenous chiefs hold pipe ceremony in Edmonton

Oilers officials and local Indigenous leaders held a pipe ceremony Sunday at Rogers Place, just outside a plaza surrounded by a fence that marked the boundary of the bubble.

“It was very, very, very special because it gives us the opportunity to welcome hockey, to welcome the world to Edmonton, to welcome them to our Treaty 6 territory as well,” said Chief Wilton Littlechild. . “The elder prayed that the health and safety of all players, fans, all staff, the media, all who participate will always be in good health. ”

Inside the fence, picnic tables and a basketball hoop were set up, and three food trucks were already open.

“This is critical to making sure we can run this tournament safely,” Oilers spokesman Tim Shipton said of the cordoned off area, adding that officials have worked with Alberta Health to balance security and player needs. “One of the things we heard loud and clear from our players was the fresh air.

“The players didn’t want to be indoors for weeks and weeks. “

Embrace the new normal

Canucks head coach Travis Green said a key would be embracing the new standard.

“There will probably be times when you might want to complain,” he says. “These are things that we talk about in a normal season, that we don’t need energy suckers. There is no sense in complaining about things. It’s different right now, and it’s OK.

“Let’s kiss him. Let’s be excited to play. “

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