It’s not something that’s been discussed a lot in the media, but the players are certainly thinking about it. What happens when you get 12 teams in an isolated bubble? What happens when those same teams run into each other right after having played a nasty play-in or round-robin game?
That’s the reality of what players who are part of the two bubbles are going to be thinking in a couple of days as Western Conference teams head to Edmonton and Eastern Conference teams head to Toronto.
All of the players are going to be in the same hotel. They’ll be bumping into each other often. And, while many of these players are friends outside the calendar of the season and off the ice, when it comes to playing each other in the playoffs, as one NHLer put it, “it’s war.”
The Players Weigh In
Tuukka Rask brought it up as the goaltender for the Boston Bruins. While he doesn’t think it will be a big issue for him, he’s not sure how his teammates will feel, particularly a player like Brad Marchand, who is known league-wide as a pest. He can even rub his own teammates the wrong way from time to time. “If you play a seven-game playoff series and there’s some heat going on between the teams … probably not playing ping pong together at the hotel,” he said.
There are, of course, rules about interacting with one another while in the bubble. So too, each of the 52-person travelling parties will have their own spaces. But, awkward moments are bound to pop up living in such close proximity.
“It’ll be something new, that’s for sure,” Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like. We’ll find out when we’re there.”
“Once you go on the ice it’s a war,” Blues’ center Ryan O’Reilly said. “I don’t think it’ll be too friendly around the bubble.”
Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames said. “To see them in the hallway and you had a battle or something, maybe not too happy to see a guy.”
John Carlson of the Washington Capitals said, “Seeing a lot of your playoff opponents wouldn’t necessarily be a normal feeling, but we’re all professionals.” Sure, professionals who chirp each other, fight, and do anything to win in the postseason.
Does the NHL Need Officials In the Bubble?
Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien isn’t sure that level of professionalism will rule the day if something goes down during an intense series on the ice. All it would take is for a player on one team to believe a player from the other did something dirty or unsportsmanlike.
“Hopefully when it gets to the hotel, we won’t need referees or bodyguards to break up some fights,” he said.
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