The NHL has teamed up with ESPN to do their usual “Quest For The Stanley Cup” docuseries that follows playoff teams trying to win the Cup each season. In this COVID-19 global pandemic world, this behind-the-scenes look may be one of the only true insights fans will get to seeing what life in the bubble was really like.
After the opening monologue by the series’ narrator, the documentary series opened the first episode with Dallas Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness speaking on the difficulties of bubble life for the teams that qualified for this pandemic-modified postseason.
“People don’t understand how hard it is, this bubble,” Bowness said the day after his team eliminated the Calgary Flames in round one. “It’s great that we’re playing, and the league is back. But it’s tough. I give the league a lot of credit, they’ve made us all feel safe. We’re secure here, everyone’s getting tested, everyone’s wearing masks. That being said, this bubble living it’s not what you think it is. And until you’re living it day-to-day, you don’t understand what everyone is going through.”
It’s not just the living there that is hard, though. The documentary walked through how each arena in the two bubbles (Edmonton and Toronto) were transformed to the arena we’ve seen on our televisions as the NHL plays in front of empty stands. They also gave some behind-the-scenes looks at the amenities in the two bubbles, such as squash courts, ping pong tables, pools, and football stadiums, among others.
The great thing about this annual series is the footage not ever really shown publicly — unfiltered.
One of the things I look forward to most in these types of documentaries are some of the people not typically in the spotlight in a lot of ways. For me, that’s the coaching staff in situations where they’re not often seen.
Such as kayaking.
“I could sit here all day,” Tampa Bay Lightning head coach said on a day in which his team went to a lagoon for some outdoor relaxation time after eliminating the Boston Bruins. “It’s either that, or my room on the 20th floor.” For those of us that have been keeping our distance from others and limiting our social interactions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s a very relatable statement.
Also, we all knew that NHL players used some salty language, but the coaches use just as many of those kinds of words as the guys they’re leading. The usually reserved Bowness exclaimed “The fucking Finns!” after his team’s Game 7 win in the second round.
SO FRESH, SO CLEAN
Prior to Game 7 versus the Colorado Avalanche, Stars defenseman Esa Lindell got a fresh cut. He said it had been at least six weeks since he’d gotten a trim, and he was focused on getting some of the length on the sides gone. Not every day you see an NHLer discuss his hair preferences with a barber.
Amidst all of the stories the documentary crews capture as various players go about their average day in the bubble, you get some fun imagery caught on camera too. Such as this NHL logo made of tiny bottles of hand sanitizer:
Only in 2020, right?
Prior to Game 7, the Stars locker room featured a rather unique “To Do” list posted for everyone on the team to see. After sharpen (presumably skates), jerseys + socks, visors, and Red Bull was this all-important item:
Joel Kiviranta would go out and score a hat trick, capping off an overtime win to advance the team to the Western Conference Finals. After the game, the Stars posted a short video clip of Kiviranta being given the team’s “chain” which is handed out to a player that had a big impact on the game after a win. He said in that clip “We’re not going home!”
What wasn’t known at the time was the fact that this was the second time the refrain had been rung forth in the Stars locker room. As his team prepared to hit the ice for warm-ups, captain Jamie Benn said it first after announcing the team’s starters for the game.
“We’re not going home here boys, eh! We’re not going home!”
New episodes air on ESPN+ (requires subscription) every Wednesday starting September 2nd until October 7th, by which the Cup will presumably be won. In Canada, the episodes are on the NHL YouTube channel.