By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Finding a way to successfully crown a 2020 Stanley Cup champion is going to take one hell of an effort from the NHL.
Top to bottom, actually. On the shelf for over three months as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL is going to need to make sure every player is safe and taken care of for over two months if necessary. In a city that's likely foreign to the players. They're also going to need testing out the wazoo (I'm just realizing I don't even know what a wazoo is), and they're going to need complete transparency from everybody involved. Sorry, Greg Campbell Hopefuls, you're not gutting out a super-flu.
But all the players involved, such as the Bruins' Matt Grzelcyk, realize that these are the sacrifices it'll take this time around.
"I think the testing... it's pretty tedious, but necessary," Grzelcyk, who has taken part in some skates at Warrior Ice Arena since the start of Phase 2 earlier this month, said. "I think the league and the teams are taking all the right measures to make sure the players are safe and as healthy as possible. And also the staff coming to the rink, keeping them in mind. It's been tough on everyone, but I think we're trying to do the best we can to make it a safe environment.
"We're really learning some things in this phase here and hopefully it'll make us better going forward with this whole thing."
This will not shock you, I know, but thus far everybody has been willing to do whatever it takes to give themselves a shot at lifting Lord Stanley. Right now, that's testing, self-checking your temperature before making your way to the facility, and wearing a mask when anywhere on the premises other than the weight room and on the ice. But this attempt to get back to work with the hopes of resuming play haven't come without some obvious issues.
While the NHL has decided to double the maximum participants on the ice from six to 12 effective immediately, the Tampa Bay Lightning are less than a week removed from having to shut down their training facility due to three positive tests for their players and additional positive tests for other staff members. (Bolts captain Steven Stamkos seemed to raise an eyebrow at the NHL's decision given what happened to the Lightning, too.) The Bruins were hit with a positive test of their own before Tampa's outbreak, and the NHL had 11 positive tests in Phase 2 in all as of the league's last update.
The virus, no matter its perceived 'smooth sailing' recovery for the majority of players in the NHL, hasn't gone away. And it won't.
"It’s definitely eye-opening to hear, but at the same time looking back, going into it you certainly expect that to pop up," Grzelcyk said. "You see more and more cases popping up across the league, and that’s to be expected as well. At the same time, it’s still a little nerve-wracking. You’re just not sure what this all means going forward. You want to make sure that those players and the people that they’re around are staying healthy and staying isolated from whoever they’re around so that we can slow the passing of this."
Location may be the league's best bet at slowing the spread, too, to be honest. Positive tests in Tampa aren't all that surprising when you consider how the city's been ravaged by positive cases over the last week, so much so that the Bolts weren't the only pro team in town hit with positives and Tampa mayor Jane Castor put a mask requirement back into action. You can make the same case for positive tests for Scottsdale native Auston Matthews and various members of the Coyotes in Arizona, too.
It should even be enough to get you a liiiiittle nervous about the league's bubble city plans, too, as Vegas has been pegged as an inevitability for the league despite having a recent explosion in positive coronavirus tests since reopening.
"Not really sure what to expect," the Charlestown, Mass. native said when asked about the league's hub city options. "I have full confidence that the league will handle that as best they can. I know they're taking a lot of suggestions on things."
And no matter the location, Grzelcyk seems to be of the mindset that it's going to come with some significant restrictions. Whether that's self-imposed or league-imposed is up to interpretation, sure, but it's merely another sacrifice to be made.
"I’m sure it’s gonna be quite a lockdown, and I think that I’m prepared to be pretty isolated. I think just having myself aware of those things will help and know that things probably aren’t going to go as planned the whole time, and things happen.
"That’s one thing that’s been apparent with this whole situation: [You] realize adversity’s going to hit. But [you] just make sure you’re in the best frame [of mind] mentally I think will go a long way on the ice and make sure that if it’s a long, grueling process to get to the end, just know that it would certainly be worth the prize.”
Grzelcyk and the NHL are currently set to move into Phase 3 of their return plan, which will be full-team training camps, on July 10.