By: Steven Marsh
After nearly two weeks of Phase 3 training camp, The Vegas Golden Knights are more than ready to fly off to Edmonton and begin the quest to win the Stanley Cup.
Head Coach Pete DeBoer said everyone is ready to get to Edmonton but acknowledged “probably the players a little more” than the coaches are eager to get there.
“It’ll be a little sense of relief to get there.” says DeBoer, who also noted the best part of training camp has been that “knock on wood” the team has stayed virus free.
Let’s revisit the timeline for the last four plus month. The season was paused on March 11th, the night the Golden Knights were scheduled to play in Minnesota. The players returned back to Las Vegas and have had to self-quarantine since then, with the majority of the players deciding to stay in Las Vegas instead of returning back to their home states and/or countries.
The return to play plan had to be developed and agreed upon. The plan was first announced by Commissioner Gary Bettman on May 26th. But, there was still work to be done including deciding when to start playing, and what the two ‘hub’ cities would be. July 10th would see the plan be finalized and agreed upon by the league and the NHLPA.
Phase Two started on June 8th as players could finally start skating in small groups of six people at a time. That eventually went to twelve. Phase Three training camp didn’t start until July 13th. So, that is over five weeks of skating and practicing and scrimmaging to make up for lost time.
That is so uncommon in normal circumstances as in a normal training camp, a team is playing exhibition games after a few days into camp. But, of course this is not a normal season.
“It was a long time, a lot of us were unsure if we were gonna return. Being able to skate the past couple of weeks, it’s been good,” says Theodore.
Defenseman Shea Theodore, who was having a career season when the pause occurred, is feeling good as the season is about to pick up.
He also looks forward to the exhibition game with Arizona to shake off the rust.
Theodore, who battled Testicular Cancer last summer, when asked about whether he thought about opting out for the return to play, said he didn’t give it any thought.
“I’m here to win a Stanley Cup. I feel like the way our training staff has taken care of everything, they’ve taken every precaution that we can take, they have made it as safe as possible. So, it was an easy decision for me and a lot of the guys,” says Theodore.
The playoff roster for the Golden Knights consists mainly of all the players who were involved in training camp who are eligible for this years postseason with the exception of defensemen Jake Bischoff and Jimmy Schuldt, as the team went with eighteen forwards, ten defensemen and three goaltenders to make up their 31-man limit.
Life in the ‘Bubble’
The Western Conference teams arrive in Edmonton Sunday and will be staying at two hotels near Rogers Place Arena. They will have to stay in the secure zone for 14-days to meet Canada’s quarantine requirements and be subjected to daily COVID-19 daily throughout the playoffs. After the 14-day period lapse, players will be permitted to leave the zone for planned outings including Golf. There will be restaurants around the arena too. Lounges where the players can hang out will be set up at the hotels as well as at the arena. But, don’t expect players from different teams to hang out with each other. Players have little desire for that. Who can blame them since they are all there for the same goal, to win the Stanley Cup.
“A lot of the guys have said it before, give me a bed, give me some food, and give me a hockey rink and I’ll be happy,” said Alex Tuch, who will likely be logging some video games hours, especially in the beginning.
Many of the players were asked over the course of training camp what was coming to the bubble with them and many of the players said X-Box, computers and tablets. So, I would expect to see some team video games hangouts during the time in the hotel rooms in between games.
Fleury jokingly, or maybe not jokingly said “lot’s of underwear,” as they could be up there awhile. Yes, that is true, if the team were to go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, they will be in the secure zone for over two months. While they will be away from their families in the beginning, family members will be allowed to be with players in the bubble starting with the conference finals.
CNBC can take solace to know Paul Stastny will be spending a lot of his downtime watching the financial based network. So, if you need stock advice, maybe go to Stastny.
Head Coach Pete DeBoer reminds everyone though “We’re going to Canada, not the Moon.”
Upon arrival to Edmonton, the Golden Knights will have to wait till Thursday when they will play their only exhibition game vs. Arizona Coyotes at 7pm.
Then, they will play in the round robin games to determine the seeding for the top four teams in the Western Conference. Dallas on August 3rd, St. Louis on August 6th and Colorado on August 8th.