Bubble life has begun for the Edmonton Oilers as the NHL prepares for playoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bubble is a secure zone the team must stay in for the duration of their NHL playoff career this season.
The Oilers became residents of the J.W. Merriott in Edmonton on Sunday. They’re one of a dozen Western Conference teams now calling downtown Edmonton home as part of the NHL’s return to play.
“Reality definitely set in yesterday when you bring your luggage into a hotel room after you drive to the rink ten minutes form your house here in Edmonton,” Oilers goalie Mike Smith said.
“It’s all kind of new to everyone. I think the team with the strongest mental strength is probably going to lift the Stanley Cup this year.”
The players and team personnel can’t leave the bubble until their team is eliminated, but at least they should be comfortable. There are restaurants with a variety of food, fitness areas, an outdoor courtyard and places for the players to chill out.
“The player lounges are really nice. The food and amenities are really nice. For the first five days, we’re kind of supposed to stay away from other teams, so some guys have really ventured around the bubble,” defenceman Matt Benning said. “There’s stuff for guys to do, which I think was a concern for some of the guys.”
The two teams who wind up playing in the Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place will be in a bubble, either in Toronto or Edmonton, for more than 60 days.
Besides all the practices, meals and downtime, there’s one other thing the player will have to get used to in their bubble: daily testing.
“You have to do it no matter what,” said Benning. “It’s part of being here. I think, for the most part, guys aren’t complaining about it.”
The Oilers will take on the Calgary Flames in an exhibition game Tuesday night and head coach Dave Tippett has one main goal in mind.
“Trying to get our mind in the right place. We’ve talked about building towards game one right from the start of this camp,” Tippett said.
“You have to get thinking right. Summer hockey has to get out of you. You have to get up to speed in a hurry, doing little things right.”
Catch the Oilers and Flames on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 6 p.m. The game starts at 8:30 p.m.