ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan published a must-read story about the NHL bubble experience on Tuesday. And it’s remarkable because it features rare candor from players. The article focused on how difficult living in the bubble was and how the NHL under-delivered on the experience.
The weirdest part of the bubble, according to players, was living in the same hotels as their opponents.
“If something happened in a game and you see the guy in the hotel, you’re like, ‘F— off, buddy,'” an Eastern Conference veteran said. “Now, you’re not going to say anything in the elevator, but you both know. But whether you were a fourth-line plug or you’re running the power play, you were there trying to play hockey and finish this. You were trying to make it as legitimate as you could. So while there was [tension], there was also a sense of, ‘Hey, guys, let’s make the best of it.'”
Added an Eastern Conference player: “It was hard because during a playoff series, I want to rip these guy’s f—ing heads off on the ice. I don’t want to have to mingle with them the next day. So that created some interesting moments. Lots of averted eye contact, to be honest.”
“The weird thing was just seeing guys on other teams. Even if they had a couple of hotels where they limited it, it was just weird. Even if you saw a buddy on another team that you’re friends with, it’s like, ‘Do I say hi to him? Do I not say hi to him?'” he said. “And sometimes you’d be eating, and, like, the coaches from the other team are one table over from you having a meal. It’s just too weird, you know? That might be different in other sports, but it’s weird for hockey.”
These quotes back up stories that other Capitals players shared publicly while staying in the Toronto bubble at Hotel X.
“It’s pretty bizarre,” Garnet Hathaway said during Round Robin play on the Capitals’ podcast Between Two Blue Lines.
“I thought the first day was weird,” Nic Dowd added. “When you get on the elevator with guys like that, you’re supposed to not like [them], but in the end, we’re all playing in the NHL and a lot of these guys don’t stay on the same team forever. Like Gudy and Dilly and myself, I played for multiple teams. Garny’s played for two teams now, guys know guys around the league or you’ve played in a summer league with a guy or whatever it is.
“At a young age, you’re taught to ‘I don’t like this guy because he’s not my team’ or whatever it might be. In the end, you end up either being teammates of these guys or you have a common understanding being in the same league.”
“It’s kinda rare that you see [opposing players] but even on the way out from breakfast I was in the elevator with two guys from Boston,” Hathaway said. He joked, “It’s nice when guys have the nametag out or a logo.”
“It’s a little weird,” Dowd said. “It’s not like guys are walking around not holding doors for each other or closing the elevator on each other or ordering room service to other peoples’ rooms.”
“Who’s burger did you eat the other day?” Hathaway said.
“Someone had something ordered to my room which was great because I was starving when I got back so I just ate that,” Dowd recalled as both players broke into laughter. “Yeah, you kind of do a double spit take. Oh, I’m getting in an elevator with five different (opposing) players. It’s just [a situation] you don’t run into a lot.”
Tom Wilson shared a story about running into former head coach Barry Trotz before the first round of the playoffs. The Islanders would go on to beat the Capitals in five games and Todd Reirden was fired days later.
“It’s obviously a little different,” Wilson said. “I just walked by [Barry] the other day because obviously we’re in the bubble and you see other teams and stuff. Some fond memories with that coaching staff over there… No friends this time of year obviously.”
One player who was more popular than the others was Radko Gudas, who played with both the Flyers and the Lightning before being traded to Washington. Both of Gudas’s former teams were in Hotel X with Washington, so Capitals players nicknamed Radko Gudas the Mayor of the Toronto Bubble.
“Gudy’s an awesome guy, one of the best teammates you can play with,” Wilson said when asked about Gudas’s penchant for knowing everyone at the team hotel. “It’s weird. You see guys you’ve done battle with. You see a guy you’ve played with and it’s strange, but it’s fun at the same time.”
During another chance meet up, Alain Vigneault shared an elevator with Alex Ovechkin the day before the Capitals played the Flyers in the round robin.
“It’s funny,” the Flyers head coach said August 5. “The situation we’re in, this morning when I went down for breakfast, I went down (the elevator) with Ovi. So we were talking about tomorrow’s game. Usually, that doesn’t happen.
“They’re excited about tomorrow’s game and we’re excited. It should be a real fun one.”
While the mingling with opponents was strange, Jets head coach Paul Maurice still thinks the players handled themselves well in comparison to his playing days.
"If you had laid this (hub) scenario out to me 20 years ago, I would say there's a better chance of a fist fight in the lobby," Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice joked 😂 https://t.co/11O1Fy1SZX
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) July 24, 2020
Headline photo courtesy of @Capitals
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