Coffee, pillows, musical instruments, golf clubs, family photos and a lot of video game gear accompany NHL players as they head into relative isolation.
The 24 teams playing for the Stanley Cup arrived Sunday in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton.
Players armed themselves for a potentially lengthy stay with a few of their favourite things.
Exhibition games starting Tuesday in both cities are warmups to the qualifying round starting Aug. 1.
Unless the COVID-19 pandemic derails completion of the 2019-20 NHL season, teams that win will continue towards a Stanley Cup final that could go as late as Oct. 4 in Edmonton.
When they’re not on the ice, the players will spend a lot of time in their hotels. In order to prevent contagion, they’re under NHL orders not to mix with the public.
“There’s going to be a lot of card playing and hanging out around the two levels, or two floors that we have,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins predicted.
Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin intended to bring some golf clubs.
“You’ll find me putting in the hallway,” he said.
Flames centre Mikael Backlund can’t live without his favourite coffee and the machine to brew it.
“It’s important to me to have my Swedish coffee,” he said.
“I’ll bring my pillow because you never know what the pillows are in the hotels,” Backlund continued. “I need to make sure my pillow is good because that’s one thing I’m picky about.
“Bring a lot of books and my iPad and maybe some treatment things that will help my body recover.”
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is bringing his trusty, travel guitar, to entertain teammates.
“I don’t think it’s about me playing, it’s whether they like listening or not,” the goalie said.
Leafs defenceman Justin Holl already regrets leaving his keyboard behind.
“I actually didn’t bring it back because it was too unwieldy,” Holl lamented. “But it was a bad plan on my part. Now I wish I had have brought it because I’m going to want it.”
Nugent-Hopkins would bring his golden retriever if he could.
“I wish I could bring Sophie in, but I don’t think that’s allowed,” the Oiler said.
Toronto winger Kyle Clifford insists on bringing a fan because he needs white noise to sleep.
For Leafs captain John Tavares, it’s books and a photo of his family.
Oilers head coach Dave Tippett and Leafs counterpart Sheldon Keefe expect to be consumed by the demands of their jobs, so no particular creature comforts required.
“I’m going to treat it just like a road trip,” Tippett declared. “You go in there with a change of clothes.
“Coaches end up watching a lot of video anyways, so you’ll be preoccupied with that I’m sure with so many games going on. That’ll be entertainment enough, getting your team ready.”
Running parallel to the hockey playoffs will essentially be an e-sports convention given the number of players taking their consoles to the hub cities.
“I think just my gaming station, that’s pretty much it for me,” Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine said.
“And a toothbrush.”
— With files from Joshua Clipperton in Toronto.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
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