By Lauren Gudknecht
The hotels may be deluxe, but life inside the two NHL playoff bubbles is not as elegant as it may seem. In addition to daily COVID-19 testings, teams lack freedom to go beyond the security fences surrounding the hotels and arenas.
After nearly a month of being cooped up in a connected hotel arena complex in Edmonton, Alberta, Rick Bowness, the interim head coach for the Dallas Stars, stated that he has had to pull himself together by stepping outside in the sun to breathe in some fresh air.
“If people think living in a bubble is great, it’s tough. It’s mentally tough. And everyone’s making the best of it,” Bowness said to CBC News.
The 2020 NHL playoff format is unlike any other year, where athletes could play home games and jump into their car to be with loved ones. Now they play and go back into their hotel rooms. Despite the hardships, the Dallas Stars advanced to the second round of the playoffs with a Game 6 victory over Calgary.
“It’s hard when you’re in that type of environment because it’s almost like you’re in prison,” Blackhawks’s general manager Stan Bowman said after Chicago was eliminated by Colorado.
Teams do have access to outdoor stadiums in both cities, and the NHL has made time for golf outings on the players’ days off. Even on those days, they are bused to and from the facilities with no interaction with those outside of the bubble.
“We knew when we came into this bubble, you roll with the punches,” Bowness added.
The NHL teams are taking it day by day, finishing off strong in the playoffs, and counting down the days until they can be reunited with their families.