Inside the Bubble Blog: Close calls in Edmonton, prime rib in 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 Sunday:


Steve Mayer in Edmonton

I’m writing this after overtime of Game 1 of three today in Edmonton between the Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames. 

When you’re in that position, especially when someone scores a tying goal in the last minute of regulation, as Dallas’ Joe Pavelski did, then all the involved parties start to talk to each other so that we’re very clear on what overtime means across the board.

We immediately talk to Colin Campbell and Kris King with hockey operations in Toronto. I also contact Rod Pasma from hockey operations and ice gurus Dan and Mike Craig. (And a happy birthday to Dan Craig, who celebrated his 65th today.)

Then, I consult with John Bochiaro in game presentation, who sits next to me. We then determine what time the ongoing game needs to go past for us to decide to cut the transition time before the next game.

We usually take 88 minutes between the end of one game until puck drop for the next game, but we have the ability to cut that period to 75 minutes. 

The game between Dallas and Calgary ended at 3:35 p.m. local time and we immediately made the decision to cut the between-game time. Therefore, we were able to start the next game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Chicago Blackhawks at 4:50 p.m. locally.

That was only 10 minutes after we originally planned to start the game, and this gives us a chance to get back on time for the third game of the day between the St. Louis Blues and the Vancouver Canucks. This is immediately communicated so everybody is on the same page and our broadcasters know the new start time.

In this case, the time change wasn’t a big deal.

We also met with the Blackhawks today and talked about their arrangements to leave the bubble should they lose tonight. We have plans in place every time there is a potential clinching game for the team that is eliminated to have to undergo its exit medical tests and safely leave the bubble.

I did say during our meeting with Tony Ommen, the Blackhawks vice president of team services, that I also hope he has a reservation for a plane booked for Oct. 2 because you never know what can happen in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. We make these plans because we have to be prepared, but hopefully we never have to execute them.

If the Blackhawks win, they would head tomorrow to the Terwilliger Community Recreation Centre where it would be another normal practice day and they would prepare for their next game on Tuesday.

I have to commend “Terwilliger Pete” Pennecke for doing amazing job at this incredible practice facility. There are four sheets of ice, and tons of locker room space.

This state-of-the-art building has been able to house all our practices and it’s worked seamlessly. 
It’s about a 30-minute drive from downtown Edmonton and quite a refreshing change of scenery for our players. 

In an ever-changing, day-to-day environment, I was amazed when I visited last week to see the amount of equipment that comes in and out of that facility as teams’ equipment managers shuffle gear from locker room to locker room and then from unloading trucks to loading trucks.

It takes a lot of organization and Pete and Kelsey Olmstead have gotten high marks for how they’ve set up the facility.

One of our fears, which could become a reality, is a series ending early and many of our teams and players having a lot of downtime. But for now, we hope the play continues to be as great as it has been, and the games and series stay competitive. 

We’ll talk more about downtime if and when any of us ever get any. 

So long from a busy Edmonton and enjoy the upcoming week.


Dean Matsuzaki, in Toronto

I can tell it’s the weekend only because the volume of emails has slowed down a little. Apart from that the games go on! Now that we are three games into each series in the East we have started to do some initial planning for the switch over to the next round with team departures and potential hotel moves. We are trying to keep a step ahead of things so we can be prepared for all outcomes.  

Speaking of preparedness, I wanted to make sure to mention all of the men and women working all levels of security for our Toronto bubble. We have many different agencies and companies engaged across the whole campus and it truly is a 24/7 job. Each person is playing an important role to keep everyone in the bubble safe and secure. From the staff manning our walking paths between venues, to the screening staff positioned in our hotels and arenas; they are working all hours of the day and are able to remain extremely courteous and maintain great professionalism.   

I must admit, when our walking path between the Fairmont Royal York and Scotiabank Arena was first presented to me with several “swing gates” in the design to allow for pedestrian cross traffic, I thought this could be a problem. Boy, was I wrong. It never ceases to amaze me now when I walk between the hotel and the arena, the precision and ease in which the security staff open and close the gates securely allowing everyone to smoothly walk to where they are going. It’s almost like watching performance art at times.

I may as well stick with the security theme today and talk a little bit about credentials. First of all, I need to acknowledge generally everyone in the bubble for their adoption of wearing their credentials at all times. Not always the case at many of our events but the compliance here has been terrific. Of course, none of this is possible without someone masterminding and overseeing the whole accreditation approval and production process. For us here in the Toronto hub that person is Brittany Smyth, accreditation and operations coordinator in our Events Department. Brittany has scrutinized, approved and produced thousands of credentials for the Toronto hub, everyone from players to Ice shovelers, to hotel front desk staff to shuttle bus drivers. Each has a certain role and related approved access that Brittany has assigned and matched up with their name and photo to create their credential. It’s a daunting process that she has made look easy throughout several last-minute staffing and vendor changes.

While our colleagues in Edmonton are in the midst of a very busy tripleheader day today, we are actually in a fairly long break between our 12 p.m. game and 8 p.m. game. Rumor has it that today is roast dinner day at Real Sports, prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and all the fixins. I think I better wrap this up and get over there before it’s too late!

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