Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (25), of Sweden, stops Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Tanev (8) as Brock Boeser (6) watches during the NHL hockey team’s training camp in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, July 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom (25), of Sweden, stops Vancouver Canucks’ Chris Tanev (8) as Brock Boeser (6) watches during the NHL hockey team’s training camp in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, July 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

‘Some wild hockey’: NHLers say fans can expect some entertaining summer games

Players don’t think it will take long for the 24 mostly healthy teams involved in the resumption to find their groove

NHL players usually show up for training camp in September after a summer filled with workouts and skating sessions.

They ease into the exhibition schedule — veterans might play half the games — as part of a slow build towards the regular season.

The playoffs and the Stanley Cup are the ultimate goal. Both are also a long way off.

There’s inevitably some early rust, and those October matchups can be sloppy, especially before coaches get a chance to really drill down on systems and tendencies.

So in a season like no other, what will the hockey look like after 143 days between meaningful games when the NHL’s pandemic-halted campaign resumes Aug. 1 following a chaotic sprint to get ready?

“Fun to watch,” Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. ”Intensity’s going to be high, extremely fast-paced. We’ll probably see some wild hockey games.”

“Fast and wild,” added Washington Capitals defenceman John Carlson.

Most players were off skates for two months or more after the league suspended its schedule March 12 because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Some had access home gyms, while others were cooped up in condos without any equipment at their disposal.

NHLers started to trickle back into arenas as different jurisdictions opened in the spring. Clubs were allowed to make facilities available for voluntary on- and off-ice workouts in June.

After the league and the NHL Players’ Association gave the 24-team restart a thumbs up earlier this month, training camps opened July 13. It’s then off to the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto on July 26 before the mad dash for the Cup begins after just one exhibition game.

“Everyone’s had a chance to get away and reflect and get some rest and probably feel a lot better mentally and physically with a long break like this,” Tavares said. ”We know how fast and talented our league is overall.

“There’s not much room for error, so the stakes are high right off the bat.”

Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand, however, said in April things could look “really, really ugly” to start, while Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrik Laine mused in May he might be “terrible” after such a long layoff. The Finn hadn’t changed his tune a couple of days into camp.

But for the most part, players don’t think it will take long for the 24 mostly healthy teams involved in the resumption to find their groove.

“This is a league where you have to prepare,” Calgary Flames centre Elias Linholm said. ”And if you don’t, you’re going to be out of the league pretty quick. I think guys have been preparing pretty good. I don’t think you need much time on the ice to get back.”

READ MORE: As postponed NHL season resumes, some fans say the lure of parties will be strong

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan agreed it shouldn’t take the best in the world at their craft to figure things out, especially when considering the stakes.

“These guys are proud guys,” he said. ”A lot of them see the opportunity in front of them. That drive and that motivation to win a Stanley Cup is going to force players into a quick adjustment process.

“I can assure you this: the competition is going to be fierce. As play starts to resume and the more games guys get under their belt, the quality of execution will continue to improve.”

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Christopher Tanev is sure of one thing as well: playing in empty arenas will impact the game.

“The momentum swings will be quite different,” he said. ”Especially when you don’t have fans cheering for you or when you’re on the road (and) the rink gets going and the other team can maybe get five or seven minutes of a big momentum swing.”

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said the unique nature of the situation, including 16 clubs battling in the best-of-five qualifying round for the right to fill out the final eight spots of the usual playoff bracket, will be intriguing.

“There’s no experience that anyone’s had like this,” he said. ”You can look at some of the Canada Cups or World Cups for players who come into tournaments on long layoffs. Then again, those are (September) tournaments coming off April, May, June finishes depending on where you were in the standings.

“This is an August resumption after a March ending, so almost a five-month layoff for everyone between games, and just one exhibition game. I really don’t have any idea what it’s going to look like.”

Toronto centre Auston Matthews also doesn’t know what’s coming after so much time on the shelf, but he’s eager to find out.

“I keep reading that a lot of people feel that this is probably gonna be the hardest Stanley Cup to win with everybody being fresh,” he said. ”I’m not sure anybody really knows what to expect.

“Once the puck’s dropped, guys are going to be competing for a Stanley Cup, which is all that really matters.”

— With files from Donna Spencer in Calgary.

___

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusNHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Nanaimo singer Victoria Vaughn recently released an EP with local producer Austin Penner. (Photo courtesy Taylor Murray)
Nanaimo singer and recent VIU grad releases EP about becoming an adult

Victoria Vaughn’s ‘Growing Pains’ recorded with local producer Austin Penner

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read