Inside the Bubble Blog: Moving day for some teams in Toronto, Edmonton

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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 NHL.com from Edmonton and Toronto to give fans the latest happenings from inside the bubbles. 

Here are their entries for Sunday:

 

Steve Mayer in Edmonton

Saturday felt so different. 

After five consecutive days of three games a day at Rogers Place, to have only one game — the round-robin game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche — was a bit bizarre.

But it also gave us an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve all been able to accomplish since the teams arrived on July 26.

Saturday was moving day for a lot of the teams that were eliminated in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. 

The Nashville Predators and the Minnesota Wild went home. And the Edmonton Oilers left one by one after each player underwent a physical and was OK’d to leave the bubble. 

Our head of hotels, Allison Schechter, was there to say ‘goodbye,’ and it felt good for our entire team to know that every one of them was very complimentary.

Then, the work started on doing a deep cleaning of each one of their rooms. Believe it or not, we need 24 hours to do what could be done in a couple hours in normal times.

After Nashville and Edmonton moved out of the JW Marriott, we went to the Vancouver Canucks first to ask if they wanted to move over from the Sutton Place Hotel. They respectfully declined because they like staying at the Sutton Place Hotel.

Then, we went to the Calgary Flames and the Arizona Coyotes and they will move into the JW Marriott on Monday. After the Flames and Coyotes move, we’ll have two teams left at the Sutton Place Hotel and six teams at the JW Marriott.

Even though Monday is an off day for some, Allison and Krystle Krasnaj will be quite busy overseeing the Flames’ and Coyotes’ moves.

As I look back at the Qualifiers, huge props to our hockey operations team. I’ve mentioned numerous times Dan and Mike Craig, who are in charge of maintaining the ice, but one guy in particular I’ve got to give credit to is Rod Pasma. 

Rod has managed 12 teams effortlessly with locker rooms, practice times and game times. He gets barraged every day with questions from general managers, equipment managers and team services people and he has the greatest attitude ever.

Rod is so positive and has been incredible to work with as we manage all these moving parts.

Having eight teams now in the bubble makes this a bit more manageable. We continue to forge ahead, and we will never let our guard down, but this weekend has been nice for all of us to take a breath and think about the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The quality of play has been awesome and there’s plenty more hockey to go.

After years of experience telling dad jokes to my daughters Alexandra and Jaclyn, it’s finally paid off. Our fans seem to be responding well to the funny bits we’ve been putting up on the scoreboard here at Rogers Place.

Who says we’re the “No Humor League”? We’re just trying to have a little fun during these unique times.

So let the craziness continue. 

Even though the total attendance in our building is 0, we cannot thank our fans enough for the millions and millions who have come back to watch us play on television from the comfort of their homes.

 

Dean Matsuzaki, in Toronto

As the qualifying round comes to a close today here in Toronto we have one final round-robin game at noon followed by an 8 p.m. series-deciding Game 5 between the Maple Leafs and the Blue Jackets. After the exciting finish of Game 4, there is plenty of anticipation for tonight’s clincher.  

My day today once again started with a COVID-19 nasal swab which has become pretty much second nature to everyone living inside the bubble. That said, I still smile and laugh a little when the tester asks me each day if I am familiar with the process or have ever had this test before! I have to cut them some slack given the size and scope of the testing operation. We have many testers at five different locations and over 1,500 people tested each day. Still, on Day 20-something I am running out of witty replies when asked if this is my first test.

Next, I checked in with the Hotel and Transportation groups to make sure we are all set for final qualifying round departures regardless of the result of tonight’s clinching game. It was a very busy Friday night and Saturday for this group with both Florida and Pittsburgh departing the bubble.

The single biggest topic of the day is the Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule! If I had a loonie for every question I have received today about the round one schedule I would definitely have to invest in a stronger belt. With several matchups still to be decided today our NHL scheduling department is working hard on many scenarios and with all stakeholders to confirm everything. As the games conclude today and the matchups get determined the schedule will be confirmed and released. It is amazing the trickle-down scheduling that happens off of the game schedule. Off the top of my head the things that will be determined once the game schedule is set include; team practice times, dressing room assignments, equipment movements, bus scheduling, venue staffing, and hotel food and beverage orders and staffing for game day meals.

Today we are also planning ahead for tomorrow’s between-rounds off day. At Scotiabank Arena the Ice Crew and Hockey Ops will take advantage of this day for any necessary ice maintenance, our décor group will refresh the in-bowl graphics and the arena has scheduled some light routine maintenance work. Out at the practice facility, Vince Granieri is preparing for a busy day of practices, and with another favorable forecast Lauren and Catie will make sure all of our outdoor spaces are operational for any team and staff recreation.

It’s interesting to see each team’s preferences for free time – the New York Islanders crowned a pingpong champion on their team floor at the Fairmont, the Carolina Hurricanes held a Spikeball tournament, the Tampa Bay Lightning enjoyed some time on the pickleball courts at Hotel X, and the Philadelphia Flyers spent their Sunday playing bocce ball under the big screen at BMO Field. 

Behind the scenes, the staff’s free time includes orders of bubble tea to stay on-brand with life in the bubble, DIY decorations for coworkers’ bubble birthdays and trying to find time to do laundry, pay bills and maybe talk to friends and family back home. 

As we close out the Qualifiers and make our way to the first puck drop of the Round One, we are all proud of what we have accomplished up to this point along with our friends and colleagues in Edmonton. We are buckling down for more amazing hockey to come, and many more Tim Hortons double doubles in the bubble!

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