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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 21, 2020
In Toronto and Edmonton, of course, it has the potential to be one of those “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” deals.
But for openers, the NHL’s ‘Return To Play’ Hub City summer Stanley Cup playoffs have been brilliant.
For the first time since the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1923, there were two penalty shots in the same game. For the first time ever, a player in his first Stanley Cup playoff game produced five points. Both No. 12 seeds — Montreal and Chicago — upset No. 5 seeds Pittsburgh and Edmonton. Colorado’s Nazem Kadri scored the winner against St. Louis with 0.01 seconds left on the clock.
And of all the statistics flashed on his Rogers Place scoreboards, NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer won the day Sunday with this one:
“Tonight’s Attendance: 0.”
Mayer couldn’t help but be giddy.
His staging and game presentation have been a huge hit and, while there’s still 67 days to go, the show has been flawless so far.
The Mayor of Hub City said that only 10 per cent of the bells and whistles he had built in for the exhibition games were in play for the exhibition games. When the five-game Saturday, five-game Sunday, six-game Monday long weekend start of the Stanley Cup playoffs began, the AE Games crowd noise component, home team goal horns, fan chants, etc. all kicked in. And it wasn’t over the top. It added more than it took away. All those touches worked to one degree or another.
The NHL, which still hasn’t had a positive coronavirus pandemic test, deserve nothing short of rave reviews from top to bottom in every direction as they launched their ‘Return To Play.’
It’s been brilliant.
O.K. That’s from the outside looking in.
There have been some challenges.
Like, with Edmonton in a 30ºC heat wave, the Sutton Place Hotel, where six of the 12 Western Conference teams are housed in the bubble, lost its air conditioning.
“We lost the air conditioning in that hotel for 24 hours,” admitted Mayer.
“We brought fans in immediately. Thank you Canadian Tire. They were prepared. We had a couple hundred there in no time. They were wonderful. In this environment we came in with the attitude that it’s not about the problem, it’s about the solution. Things are going to happen. We’re living in a different world and we’re going to be going through this for three months. Not every day is it going to be perfect.
“We had a problem with all the signs we needed to put up in the bubble. They didn’t arrive until late in the day that they were supposed to arrive. It was like ‘OK. We’re going to have to work all night.’ ”
Then there was the mistake on the Stanley Cup logo at Centre Ice.
“The crew had to come in on Thursday night to change the logo because it was incorrect and at 4 a.m. we had to take it out, put the new one in and have to rebuild the ice in time for our first game between the Oilers and the Blackhawks.
“When we opened the Ice District to the players, we had two food trucks. Now we have four. We’re constantly evolving.”
It all started, of course, with the storm that resulted in the roof of the Ford Hall part of Rogers Place collapsing and the entrance being totally flooded.
“We get here and the roof collapsed. I mean, come on. We fixed it. No damage. As far as we’re concerned, it never happened.”
The early NBC television numbers are exceptional.
“Only the outdoor game was higher than NBC’s first game. And the NBC doubleheader is our best for a doubleheader in years and years,” said Mayer.
Due to the long weekend, the Hockey Night In Canada and Sportsnet numbers won’t be available until Tuesday but they’re expected to be ballistic.
“I’m not going to lie. Things are going good with the games, the teams and with the bubble,” said Mayer, who has yet to get a call from either of his hubs about a positive test for the coronavirus.
“We’re trying to evolve and see what works and what doesn’t. The response for the first few games for the look of the set has been pretty outstanding.”
One surprise has been the board advertising for each “home” team from each separate rink. It’s a massive undertaking to not only have a team to put them up and peel them off for three games per day but to print them up and have them good to go for the next one.
Mayer failed to mention that component to anyone in any of his interviews leading into the event.
“We didn’t mention it. We didn’t talk about it. But we were prepared for it. You can imagine all the artwork that had been prepared for all of this.”
Everywhere you turn, it’s been wonderful.
Now it’s about the Oilers and the Leafs.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020