Coronavirus: Calgary Flames prepare for life in the NHL bubble

The Calgary Flames hit the ice for their third day of training camp, ahead of the shortened Stanley Cup playoffs, on July 15, 2020. Tom Reynolds/Global News

In 11 days, the Calgary Flames will trade the comfort of life in Calgary for the NHL’s secure zone.

The bubble is designed to keep players and a limited staff away from the outside world and inside the rink and designated hotels in hopes of stopping any spread of COVID-19.

“Hopefully at least we can go out a little bit, take some fresh air or something,” defenceman Rasmus Andersson said Wednesday.

“Just staying inside of a bubble or inside the hotel or the rink could be a little bit boring.”

With the Stanley Cup expected to be lifted in October, the Flames could be in lockdown for more than two months if they make a deep run.

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Naturally, they’ll have to pack things to pass the time, and it seems the team is divided into two camps: Team Xbox and Team PlayStation.

“I’m going to bring a lot of equipment,” goaltender David Rittich said. “Of course, I’m going to bring my PS4 to kill some time at the hotel room.”

“I’ll bring my PS4,” Andrew Mangiapane added. “That’s the main essential for me.”

“We used to play a lot on the planes, the road trips, so there’ll probably [be] a lot of card games too,” Andersson said. “Then I guess we’ll have to make stuff up to do. Hopefully, we have a bigger room with a lot of stuff so we can at least do something and hang out together and not stay in a room solo.”

Interim head coach Geoff Ward is hoping work can take up the bulk of his time.

“In the evening, it’ll be some relaxation probably, catch up on some Netflix shows, play some cards or whatever it happens to be,” Ward said.

“I’ve got a couple of books on my list that I want to make sure that I finish and then get through a couple of new ones.”

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During the initial play-in series, the Flames will share a hotel with five other teams including their first opponent, the Winnipeg Jets.

“So many teams in one hotel is a lot like a World Championship,” Ward noted. “It’s nice to pass them and say hello or whatever it happens to be. I don’t think it’s going to be a distraction.”

While NHL-ers face a lot of downtime and isolation in the weeks and months ahead, they say it will only increase their focus.

“I look up to guys like Gio,” Mangiapane added. “He’s never won, so you’re playing for all the older guys and you realize just how hard it is to win the cup.”

The Flames will play an exhibition game against the Edmonton Oilers on July 28 before the play-in series against Winnipeg opens on Aug. 1.

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