It was Media Day in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, and Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper wore a gray Cup Final sweatshirt in front of a black background from the the Cup as he answered questions at the JW Marriott in Edmonton. Maybe on the video it looked normal.
“Jim, did you ask that question on the other side of the fence?” Cooper said. “Are you nearby?
They laughed together, but separately.
Matheson was in his condo, 10 minutes from the hotel boardroom that the Lightning and Dallas Stars were using to preview the Cup final on Friday. The first game will be held at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub of the Best-of-7 series, on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
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No media were in person at Media Day, just as no media were in the bubble and no fans were in the postseason stands due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Normally, reporters crowd around each other and their stories on Media Day, scrambling for their position, shouting questions. This time, whether near or across the continent, they did what they had to do for months: ask questions via video conference.
“It’s different,” center Stars said Tyler Seguin, who was on Media Day in the Cup Final with the Boston Bruins in 2011 and 2013. “Someone just told me on the outside that it probably needs to be better, just have to go to a room. But honestly, you are definitely missing those days. .… There is so much media and cameras on your face, and this atmosphere is lively. It’s really surreal. ”
Surreal is an understatement.
After the season was halted on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, the NHL and the NHL Players Association came up with a return-to-play plan with an unprecedented 24-team post-season tournament. .
Twelve Eastern Conference teams entered the bubble in Toronto on July 26. Twelve Western Conference teams entered the Edmonton bubble on the same day. Now, 55 days later, we’re down to two finalists.
At the time of the year when we should be playing the preseason, we have two South American teams playing the cup final in a city in northern Canada.
You have to go back 70 years to find the last time the Cup final matches were played on a neutral venue. In 1950, due to a scheduling conflict with a circus at Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Games 2 and 3 of the Cup Final at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. At least there were fans in the stands.
Video: Stars, Lightning ready to fight for Stanley Cup final
You have to go back 101 years to find the last time a Stanley Cup series was disrupted by a pandemic. The Montreal Canadiens faced the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in Seattle in 1919, but the series was cut short after five games due to the Spanish flu. With the series 2-2-1, the Cup was not awarded. Several players have fallen ill. Canadiens defenseman Joe Hall has passed away.
Which brings us to what is most important.
The goal has always been to keep everyone safe and to award the Stanley Cup with integrity. On Monday, no one in the bubble tested positive for COVID-19. Friday, we are eight to 13 days after the Lightning or the Stars who hoist the Cup, and the debate is not whether this championship will be legitimate. The question is whether this will remain the most difficult to win in NHL history.
“It’s definitely been a weird season, obviously with everything going on,” Lightning forward Yanni Gourde said. “It’s been a long season considering our absence for four months, I think. But yeah, we’re grateful to have this opportunity to play here in the bubble, to continue playing Stanley Cup hockey.
Grateful is a good word. None of it was ideal, neither for the media and fans who couldn’t be there, nor for the teams and staff isolated from the world to present the series. But the show continued and we’re ready for an emotional finale. After all that, who wants to come back from the bubble without the Cup?
“Usually we know we’re face to face with all of you, so everything is different,” Stars coach Rick Bowness told reporters on Media Day. “But at the end of the day – and that’s what we tell our players – it’s the game, man. We have to focus on the game. We are here to win the Stanley Cup.
“All of those things outside of that have changed. Everything is different. But we’re used to it now. We’ve been here almost eight weeks. But the most important is that when you stay focused on the goal, then the goal is the same regardless of the circumstances. ”