How NHL consolidated from 2 bubbles to 1 to finish playoffs

How NHL consolidated from 2 bubbles to 1 to finish playoffs

EDMONTON — When the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders left the familiar confines of the NHL’s Toronto bubble last weekend, they masked up to board physically distanced buses and then flew west across Canada on separate charter flights.

They were handed boxed lunches on the planes, got on different buses when they landed and checked into the Edmonton bubble. The Lightning went first Saturday, followed the next day by the Islanders and NHL employees. The Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have been here since late July.

Two bubbles were suddenly one for the league’s final four and, as early as next week, the Stanley Cup Final.

The challenge of consolidating two quarantined bubbles with more than 1,300 people on site and keeping everyone safe during the pandemic is not easy, and it’s not completely done.

“The whole concept of creating two bubbles, hosting 12 teams with 52-person travelling parties in each bubble, that was an enormous undertaking,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday.

“Once we get down to four teams and having to travel two teams and some league personnel from one bubble to the next, probably in my mind was not as daunting as what we kind of went through at the start,” he said. “In terms of getting players from individual training camps in locations, some of which have big outbreaks going on, keeping them healthy, getting them into the bubble and keeping them safe. It was a daunting task and so far, so good.”

The league has reported zero positive coronavirus results among 29,890 tests administered to players, coaches and staff from their arrivals July 26 through Sept. 5, the first day of bubble-to-bubble travel.

Have there been near misses? Daly estimated that six people tested positive for the coronavirus and were isolated under local and Canadian health rules. These people serviced but do not live in the Edmonton bubble and didn’t interact directly with players; the group includes arena, restaurant and hotel workers and vendors who are also tested daily. Daly did not identify them or the timing of their positive test results.

“They go home at night, they see family members, they see friends, so obviously they pose some level of risk, Daly said. ”They’re isolated appropriately, get the right medical care and we’ve not had any outbreak situation where they’ve infected other people.”

With no positives inside the bubble after nearly 30,000 tests, Daly credited players and everyone else for a “total buy-in” to following the rules.

“It was pretty seamless, for the most part,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “All the protocols are virtually the same. So the NHL has done a really good job with that. And all the vendors, if you will, have done a really good job of staying with protocol.”

Amid all the rules and guidelines, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he and his team were able to suspend disbelief while flying so that it felt like an old-fashioned road trip.

“When you’re on the bus, everything’s kind of normal,” Cooper said. “But when we pulled up to the hotel and now you’ve got to wait for the security guys to open the gates and then you kind of get locked in and there’s fences all over the place, then you’re like, ‘OK, we’re back in the bubble.’”

The NHL is still working with the Canadian government to allow family members in, which was planned for this round, but there are some border and quarantine obstacles to overcome. So far, Canadian citizens are the only ones permitted.

Yet the hockey goes on, with over 300 people now inside the Edmonton bubble. That’s down from 700 in each city at the start of the playoffs, and while it has been working, Daly isn’t ready to declare victory.

“To this point, knock on wood, the integration has been very seamless,” he said. “We still have three plus weeks to go, but it’s all worked very well so far.”

___

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

___

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blank Unemployment Benefits form
Red Deer unemployment rate rises to 10.6 per cent

Red Deer’s unemployment rate rose slightly during the month of April. The… Continue reading

Red Deer teacher Jeremey Spink has been nominated as the NHL/NHLPA Most Valuable Teacher. He is one of 20 teachers in the running across North America for the award in February. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Last day to vote for Red Deer Teacher as NHL Most Valuable Teacher

Eastview Middle School teacher Jeremy Spink is one of three teachers in the running for the award

Starting Monday, golf courses across the province will be limited to their household or for those who live alone, their two close contacts. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Golf in Alberta limited to household or close contacts starting Monday

Golf courses will have new COVID-19 protocols to follow next week. Starting… Continue reading

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
MLA Ron Orr pleads with Central Albertans to follow COVID-19 rules

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr is changing his tune on COVID-19. Orr originally… Continue reading

People line up at a COVID-19 vaccination centre, Friday, April 23, 2021 in Deux-Montagnes, Que. Canada's two biggest provinces are continuing to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations as they report lower hospitalization figures.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
COVID-19 rapid tests going to more businesses, Alberta truckers get shots in Montana

Ottawa has introduced new ways for small and medium businesses to get… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. A broad coalition of MPs from all five parties wants the federal government to support waiving the global rules that guard vaccine trade secrets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau stopped well short Friday of endorsing efforts to… Continue reading

Workers perform ground preparations outside City Hall in Yellowknife on Monday, July 4, 2011. A recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife is mostly affecting children and youth, the territory’s chief public health officer says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Most of Yellowknife’s COVID-19 cases are in children and youth: public health officer

YELLOWKNIFE — A health official in the Northwest Territories says a recent… Continue reading

Statistics Canada building and signs are pictured in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
A year after jobs data leak, StatCan resumes sharing advance numbers with officials

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada has resumed its practice of giving key federal… Continue reading

jobs - T - 3-6-2020
Job search: 10 ways to make your LinkedIn profile stand out in 2021

In 2021 successful job hunting requires having a LinkedIn profile that’s current… Continue reading

Max Parrot of Canada competes in the men’s snowboard big air final at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. Parrot has won the Comeback of the Year honour at the Laureus World Sports Awards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot wins Laureus World Sports Award for comeback

Parrot beat out former Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith

This Nov. 22, 2015 file photo shows Justin Bieber at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Bieber’s world tour is facing another setback as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. The Stratford, Ont.-raised pop singer is pushing dozens of tour dates including stops in three Canadian cities.	THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File
Justin Bieber postpones Canadian summer tour dates until 2022

52-date world tour will now kick off Feb. 18, 2022

Most Read