Inside the Bubble Blog: All CLEAR at one-month mark in Edmonton, Toronto


NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer and League executive vice president of events Dean Matsuzaki — aka the Mayer of Hub City and Dean of the Secure Zone — are embedded in the NHL hub cities for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and the duration of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They each will be writing a blog for from Edmonton and Toronto to give fans the latest happenings from inside the bubbles. 

Here are their entries for Friday:   


Steve Mayer, in Edmonton

Day 4,723 in Edmonton. 

Another day in our bubble and in a very good way things are starting to settle in, and our mini city is running well. 

It’s funny. We got together for our staff meeting that when we first started lasted close to 90 minutes and it lasted 30 minutes today. We go around the room and almost everyone doesn’t have much to say based on their areas going well. 

One of those areas doing well and improving each day is the coordination between game presentation and broadcasting. This is my highest priority right now and, even though I may have the vision, it’s those who execute the vision that deserve to get so much credit.

John Bochiaro in Edmonton is incredible and has worked every minute of every game so far, and his counterpoint in Toronto, Renee Riva, has done the same. 

What our fans at home see are nine video screens that have to be individually coordinated. 
We’ve worked for more than a month on the graphics, video and tone of what our audience now sees on these screens and every single moment of the game has to be synched up.

My greatest interest is to tell stories and advance the information that the broadcast brings to our fans. But there’s so much more to our game presentation than the video screens.

We’ve changed the music purposefully to be a bit more popular than classic rock. We’ve worked for more than a month on the lighting and the way it provides energy within the arena and on the coordination with our broadcast partners, NBC and Sportsnet.

All that work doesn’t matter if our game presentation is seen only inside the arena. It has to be broadcast in our television coverage.

Here in Edmonton, we are working closely with the team from Sportsnet and they’ve been doing a good job implementing our work into their telecasts. But we can be better, and we will be better because this is brand new for all of us.

With each game we improve, but we’re not there yet and we all know it. There’s much more great stuff to come.

One of the overlooked pieces of the bubble is how we show what’s going on inside here to the “outside” world. It’s extremely important we send content out on a regular basis and our video team led by Russ Siberine in Edmonton is doing a great job.

We’ve got producers, editors, production assistants and production managers on site and they coordinate three camera crews that are out shooting all hours of the day and night. On top of that, we have our social team here in Edmonton, led by David Klatt, which goes out and shoots original content in a bit more up-close-and-personal way that is sent out on all of the NHL’s social channels.

The combination of all of these folks give our fans at home a unique peek into life inside the bubble.

Hey, I’ve got to go get tested now. Today is nasal swab day. (My favorite.) 

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually getting used to the testing and the protocol. I think it’s going to be weird not be tested every day after I return to the real world.

When I eventually walk into my house, I’ll probably just naturally show my family my CLEAR app that shows I’m green for the day and good to go.

Speaking of going, it’s time for the second game of three here today. These are long days, but they go fast, especially when you produce close to nine hours of hockey.

So long for now. Only 24 days until Dean joins me in Edmonton.


Dean Matsuzaki, in Toronto 

I think our use of the CLEAR app for symptom checks and temperature screening has been fairly well documented in the media. It is very slick, allowing the user to quickly fill out a symptom questionnaire and then do a facial scan and temperature check at one of the many CLEAR stations at our hotels before starting their day. Well, yesterday I think a combination of the 30-degree Celsius weather in Toronto and the two flights up from the lobby to the testing room had me running a little hot. As I was walking away from the CLEAR station the app on my phone turned red instead of the usual green. That meant a trip to the nurse’s station. A barely mentioned, but yet very important group working within our bubble are the nurses and doctors who are not only supporting the COVID-19 testing and screening but also anything else that may be ailing someone in the bubble. As I entered the Xerox Business Center turned nurse’s station, I was greeted with a very friendly hello and asked how I was feeling. After a few more symptom questions and another temperature check with an in-ear hospital grade thermometer I was given a clean bill of health, issued a dated wristband and sent on my way to start my day.

It was a quick stop at the Tim Hortons truck and straight to the arena. There was cautious anticipation for Game 2 of the Tampa Bay/Columbus series as I think many were still recovering from the historic seven-and-a-half periods of Game 1. Credit to the Blue Jackets for evening the series and in regulation nonetheless.

We celebrated another bubble birthday yesterday, thank you Thomas Meaney in our event operations group for celebrating your day with us here in our bubble! While staff were enjoying cupcakes and birthday cake, seafood seemed to be the theme of the day for many of our players. Last night was “Lobster Night” at Real Sports, and over at the Hotel X they hosted a pop-up Rodney’s Oyster House for the evening. As someone who grew up in Vancouver and is familiar with the restaurant, I was very disappointed I couldn’t work a visit to Hotel X into my schedule yesterday!

As I flipped the page in the day planner this morning, I couldn’t help but notice it’s August 14th. Many of my coworkers are tracking their time in the bubble by days or games or COVID-19 tests. I have not really been keeping track, however I do know I flew in to Toronto on July 14th so I guess I have hit the one- month mark. I think I can honestly say it has gone by pretty quickly. Let’s hope I can still say that at the two-month mark!

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