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Being locked in a hotel for two months, only allowed to leave for work, doesn’t sound like much fun at face value.
That changes, though, depending on if you’re talking about a Holiday Inn (basic, no frills), a Sheraton (nicer accommodations, more options) or a luxury J.W. Marriott or St. Regis set up specifically for your group.
Unlike the NBA (manicures, barbers, DJ sets), the NHL’s hub city protocol does not outline all of the amenities that will be available to players, but the league still is focused on providing entertainment.
Hotel pools are fair game, if they’re open, given social distancing. Spas and saunas are not.
Expect a lot of video games. They’ve already been a part of playoff runs — the Capitals and Golden Knights made good use of Mario Kart on Nintendo 64 during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. And some players bring their systems on road trips that last fewer than two months.
Whether in a players’ lounge (like the NBA has set up) or from their own hotel rooms (maybe across the two hubs), the NHL could see some major gaming tournaments. Fortnite, Call of Duty, Madden NFL — they’re all on the table.
Hotel bars will be open (and bartenders will be tested for the coronavirus daily), though servers are recommended to use carts rather than hand over drinks directly.
Those staying inside the bubble (a long list of players, team personnel, NHL staff, on-ice officials and more) will have a few dining options. Hotel restaurants will be open, each team will have a designated conference room with catered meals, room service will be contactless and there’s always outside delivery.
The protocol also refers to “restaurants outside the Phase 4 Secure Zone hotel(s) that are dedicated for NHL use only,” but it’s not clear how many of those there will be or how often they will be available.
It could be one of the “social excursions” the NHL will arrange in recognition of “the importance of mental health and the psychological benefit of variation in activity” — nothing like legal language to make field trips sound like schoolwork.
Edmonton’s pitch to be a hub city included secure golf courses and a video highlighting the mountains and lakes in the region. The NHL probably isn’t taking players on a hiking trip hours outside the city, but golfing is a definite possibility.
The idea of NHL-only golf courses was brought up early and often around the talk of hub cities. Maybe someone could bring a camera crew, or at least a Go-Pro, and give fans an inside look — a la Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning and Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady in “The Match.”
Outdoor movie screenings, in or outside the bubble, are an option. Though, since the league isn’t putting the hubs on a campus owned by a major media and entertainment conglomerate (Disney), the NHL probably won’t have early access to movies like Black Widow.
Anyone heading into the bubble would do well to bring the stacks of books sitting on their bedside tables. Seems like a great time to catch up on a literary bucket list.
The NHL has some rules, too. The 28-page document is mostly rules.
No one is allowed inside anyone else’s room. Each team will have its own floor. Everyone is supposed to wear a face mask at all times, unless exercising or alone. There will be a strict schedule for the fitness center — for players, NHL staff and others living in the secure zone. The protocol has a whole section on the elevators (no talking, no using fingers to press buttons, no lingering, stand on the marked spaces).
It’s not all fun and games — except for the literal games.
©2020 Diana C. Nearhos and Tampa Bay Times
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