My NHL Bubble Experience
By Alex Menezes, Asst. Equipment Manager, Ottawa Senators
As we all know 2020 has been kind of a strange year, from ending our hockey seasons in mid March to watching a Stanley cup being raised in October, in a Bubble, who would have thought.
Some of you reading this may or may not know me, I am a proud member of the Ottawa Senators equipment staff alongside John Forget, Ian Cox and Bram Karp. Unfortunately for the Senators we were part of the 7 NHL teams who did not get to participate in the return to play in Toronto and Edmonton. With our rink in Ottawa being closed and a work from home mandate from our team it gave us a lot of free time. On July 1st I received a call from Rich Villani of the NHL asking if I was interested in lending a hand in the Toronto Bubble with the day to day operations of the event. With the permission of our General Manager Pierre Dorion and the Senators HR department I accepted the invitation. Rich put me in contact with JR Boyle of the NHL’s operations department and soon after we got the ball rolling.
I was informed that I was going to be working alongside some old friends and familiar faces. David Roper from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Andrew Koch from the
Newfoundland Growlers, Tom Burns from the Toronto Marlies and Chris Cook from the Kingston Frontenacs whom I had previously worked with in Ottawa. We also had support from NHL front office staff members Mike Chute, Nicolas Torchia and Vince Granieri.
Before we were allowed in the Bubble, we all had to have 3 negative Covid tests. So, on July 25th after getting all my tests done, I headed over to Toronto not really sure what to expect. My first phone call was to David who had been in the Leafs facilities for weeks leading up to the start of the event. David was the point guy for the League and all 12 teams and our crew’s team leader. He informed me that we were going to have a lot of work and that all together we would establish a system, schedule, and routine for our day to day operation.
On day one I got familiar with the facilities, one being Ford Performance Center and the other the game rink, Scotia Bank Arena. With 12 teams coming in and setting up shop it was a lot of information to take in. With each team having one full practice day and the following day exhibition games, we truly hit the ground running. We all know how a game day can be extremely busy with two teams in one building now picture 12 teams in 2 buildings with not 1, not 2, but 3 games a day.
The first few days in the Bubble we all logged in about 18 to 19-hour days averaging about 35,000 steps. From helping teams load in and out of the practice rink to the game rink, getting the game rink ready for a game, laundry for 12 teams, it was quite the grind.
It was interesting to see how other teams operated. We were so used to our own routines in Ottawa. But getting a different point of view, tips and tricks, really helped bring new ideas to Ottawa. Having 3 games a day with teams also practicing at FPC was the most challenging part I would say. With 4 dressing rooms at SBA it meant helping a lot of teams move in and out of the building while also getting ready for the following game. All in all, the guys worked extremely hard and every single staff member from each team would all chip in; equipment, medical, strength, video, League staff, and I even saw some coaches from teams help push trunks down to the truck. In the end, I logged 61 games in 40 days.
The NHL did a fantastic job putting this event together in such short notice. Everything from daily Covid testing to setting up the Clear app, the sanitation crews who worked both facilities, transportation, security – it was impressive to see it all happen so flawlessly. On the rare occasion that we had a day or evening off, the League also had set up tons of things to do at Hotel X and BMO field with a few restaurants to chose from which was nice.
I truly enjoyed the opportunity I had to work in the Bubble. The seven weeks I was in there felt like one. I got to work with other equipment managers from other teams and League staff. I learned a lot and was part of something very unique. Special thanks to David Roper for his patience and time being the point. This would not have run so smoothly without ya By. Thank you, Andrew Koch, Tom Burns, Chris Cook, Mike Chute, Nicola Torchia, Vince Granieri and all the equipment managers for their hard work. I also want to thank Rich Villani and JR Boyle for giving me this opportunity.
Till next time,