Bettman: Format, Protocols Allow NHLers To Feel Safe In Bubbles
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated over the weekend that the league and players' union have "created a format and protocols that, now that we're inside the bubble, our players and all of our personnel can feel relatively safe." Bettman said of what happens if a player tests positive: "The process will be determined by the medical people, but my best sense of it from all the discussions we have is they're going to be isolated. There will be some contact tracing so we can monitor the people that they’ve been in contact with, and whether or not it’s more widespread and then what happens is something that ultimately the medical people are going to tell us, both our medical people and the authorities where we’re playing, are going to tell us what the appropriate response is" (“NHL Live,” NBCSN, 8/1).
PLAYOFF PAYOFF: On Long Island, Neil Best wrote the nature of hockey and the setup over the weekend "made the lack of fans not much of a distraction." The NHL "dove right into this version of the playoffs on Saturday," and the "fun was that it counted, despite the odd backdrop." The "sounds of the game itself dominated, and that was enough." Networks' coverage "added to the relative normalcy" (NEWSDAY, 8/2). The AP's John Wawrow noted piped-in music during stoppages was "notably loud, the sound of a muffled crowd could be heard during play -- but not loud enough to drown out players and coaches" (AP, 8/1). In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan wrote under the header, "Props To The NHL And Commissioner Gary Bettman For Saving Its Season." The NHL has "become a leader in virus control" and Bettman "deserves credit" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/2).
CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE: In N.Y., Carol Schram noted Edmonton's Rogers Place has been "turned into an outdoor recreation area where players can get a bite to eat or play basketball, enjoying the pleasant Edmonton summer, where daily temperatures top out in the 70s and there are 16 hours of daylight." Oilers Chair Bob Nicholson "singled out the team’s owner, Daryl Katz, for pestering" Bettman during deliberations to select the hub cities. Nicholson: "But really it was Daryl, starting with the vision. He called Gary a ton." Schram noted Edmonton's Ice District "may not have the same global profile as the Las Vegas Strip," which was in the running as a hub city, but in Edmonton, hockey "keeps the community pumping" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/1).
IN THE DETAILS: THE ATHLETIC's James Mirtle noted during play in Toronto on Saturday, the arena fell "almost silent, with the only natural sounds those from the pond: skates and sticks and yells from players and coaches." Mirtle: "Well, that, and the fake EA Sports crowd noise that the league began pumping into the building with this game." What "stood out" about being at Scotiabank Arena was the "scale of what the NHL has tried to do here." Visually, the "massive stage behind the players' benches and the video screens that have been installed are incredibly impressive." Mirtle wrote, "I initially thought that the NHL was using some of the elaborate set pieces that concerts and other shows use at Toronto's arena, but an MLSE spokesman explained that the league had all of this custom-built over the past six weeks just for this purpose." It "looks seamless with the rest of the arena, however." NHL Chief Content Officer and Senior Exec VP/Events & Entertainment Steve Mayer was "responsible for the design, along with Gary Wichansky from Hotopp, a Seattle-based company that specializes in large-scale set design." Mirtle concluded, "I came away from Scotiabank Arena with an appreciation for how hard it was for the league to get to this point" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/1).
WELCOMED RETURN: In DC, Pell & Coletta wrote having an "entire postseason tournament in Canada, where the sport is woven into so many aspects of life, is welcome for many Canadians." The "return of a cultural mainstay offers some comfort." A poll this week from the Angus Reid Institute found that "more than 70 percent of Canadian hockey fans say they’re 'very excited' or 'pretty excited' for summer hockey with the remainder of fans expressing less enthusiasm for the game's return" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/1).