Florida Panthers: Life in a Bubble

The days are counting down, it’s been almost 5 long months since NHL hockey has been played, but the wait is just about over. The Florida Panthers have landed in Toronto to prepare for their best of 5 series against the New York Islanders, and they have also arrived in the NHL’s Eastern Conference bubble. What exactly is a bubble? That’s a great question and what it means for the Panthers players is even more important as a key to their success in this strange postseason format.

Ever since the NHL released its return to play framework and format on May 26th, which seems like an eternity ago. Every moment following the release has consisted of a non-stop effort on the part of the league to set up 2 hub cities to host their modified playoffs. Needless to say, this would be a difficult and unprecedented task that would take countless hours and tons of money to pull off.

The cities of Toronto, Ontario and Edmonton, Alberta were selected by the league to host 12 teams each, to eventually crown a champion to the 2019/2020 NHL season. In each city, the NHL has rented out 2 hotels for players, coaches, team staff, and league staff to stay while in the bubble. Much like the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, players will be required to stay on property unless given explicit permission or they must serve a quarantine period.

The league has set up many amenities for players to enjoy while staying in their hotels, such as player lounges, multiple bars and restaurants open only to players and staff, and activities to keep players busy during off time. Pictures from inside the bubble look up to NHL standards, including the inside of both Rogers Place and Scotiabank Arena which have been transformed into video game-like stages with LED screens and lights to fill empty space.There’s obviously implications in all of this for the Florida Panthers as they are currently in the bubble, and hope to remain there for a while as they play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Adjusting to life in a bubble wont be easy and it’s almost impossible to predict how individuals will react to their new living setup. Many players have brought pieces of home with them, such as pictures or small items from their houses to keep a home-type feel. Others have brought gaming systems and monitors to keep them busy and connected with the online world while experiencing downtime.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers react to this new environment and style of play. It’s hard to imagine what it’ll be like to be virtually locked in a hotel for months while trying to win the hardest trophy in sports. Every team’s hope is that their guys band together while facing so much adversity and it fuels an eventual cup run. The hard part is, this will be the longest run any team has had to go on yet, adding 3 more wins required to take home the cup as a team participating in the playoff qualifying round. Just about all I can predict about the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs is that everything is unpredictable, any outcome is on the table, and it might just be the most interesting 10 weeks in hockey history.

Thanks for reading.

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