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Bill Daly is the NHL’s second banana, best known as the guy who held up the gold card with the Oilers logo at the NHL Draft Lottery that resulted in Connor McDavid coming to Edmonton.
He’s also known as the guy who presents the trophies at the Eastern and Western Conference finals that generally nobody wants to hold or touch.
Daly, who has been in Edmonton doing his time in quarantine, completed the isolation process and has now emerged to examine the Hub City bubble of the entire Stanley Cup playoff concept that has been the ultimate success story of all the leagues’ return-to-play projects in North American pro sports.
As NHL deputy commissioner, Daly is low profile but his value has showed itself from beginning to end heading this project.
“Bill is tireless. He has been an amazing leader on all we’ve done since we paused,” said NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer. “Bill led the team that put together our health protocol and is the real reason this has been a success to this point. My events team is here to execute his plan. My admiration for him and his work ethic is beyond words.”
Daly said if there’s ever been a project where credit needs to be shared, this is it.
“This has been an overall team effort and an enormous undertaking,” he said in a one-on-one interview after emerging from quarantine to become an official resident of Hub City.
“The general public — and even some who are directly involved — likely underestimate the time, brainpower and resources that have been devoted to pulling this off and making it a success to this point. It’s one of the biggest projects I’ve ever been involved with,” Daly said of the tournament that is believed to have come with a $70-million U.S. price tag.
“It not only has included our staff but the staff of the Oilers Entertainment Group and MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment) in Toronto. We couldn’t have accomplished what we are accomplishing without their efforts and relationships. It’s been a true team effort.”
While the focus has been on Toronto and Edmonton and the NHL’s record of zero positive tests since the teams entered the two Canadian bubbles, Daly said the real triumph was getting the 24 playoff teams to the hub cities.
“For me, the biggest test was to pull off the individual training camps in the club cities and then transition to the bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto in a healthy fashion.
“That was the period of the biggest risk for us and we got through it. And that was a credit to the players and everyone else involved in doing things right and minimizing their risks. It’s really paid off.
“Once we got to the bubbles and we remained healthy, I knew we had a good chance to pull this off. That was probably the first time I started getting sleep at nights.
“I knew then we were in the good hands of our medical professionals and I saw that our players and club staff were committed.”
While Vegas and then Vancouver were projected to be the Western Hub, Daley again held up the card for Edmonton, not just as West host but whole hog host.
“Ultimately, Edmonton was an easy decision. The city had done a tremendous job in minimizing incidence of the virus and taken a very proactive and responsible approach to containment. Alberta Health, in particular, was level-headed, co-operative and very easy to work with. We all shared the same goal — keeping people protected and healthy.
“I’m pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish but like the players we have to keep our eyes on the prize, the successful awarding of the Stanley Cup. But no positive tests in the approximately 30,000 (29,890) administered to players, club officials and staff has definitely exceeded our expectations.”
It’ll be interesting to see if any of the inspired ideas produced to get to this point in hockey and the other pro sports become staples going forward.
“Have there been things we learned that we can carry over? Yes. But for the moment it’s a different problem to solve entirely,” said Daly of the next season currently being contemplated to begin in December.
I asked the deputy commissioner if he’s at the spitballing stage of tackling that one.
“Spitballing is the right term at this point. There are lots of possibilities.”
In the meantime, he’s happy to be here in the home arena of Connor McDavid that he made ecstatic when he held up that gold card with the Oilers logo.
“It was obviously an important moment in the history of this franchise. I was privileged and honoured to be part of it, just like I’m privileged and honoured to come to work every day and do what I do.”
See you back here for an NHL Entry Draft, NHL All-Star game and possibly to present the Western Conference trophy a few times in the coming decade, Bill.
Enjoy being in your bubble.
On Twitter: @byterryjones
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