TORONTO – It was just an exhibition. However, these were the first NHL games since March 11, the day before the season was suspended due to concerns about coronavirus, and unlike any games previously played in the NHL.
The Philadelphia Flyers defeated Pittsburgh’s Penguins 3-2 crews against zero fans at the Scotiabank arena on Tuesday to see what the NHL comeback will look like and sound when the Stanley Cup qualifiers start on Saturday.
“I think everyone just wants to show off,” said Renee Riva, NHL’s director of game presentation, as she sat at her laptop in a modified kit near the center of the ice. “We’re proud. We’ve been working around the clock for the last couple of weeks and we can see this quite successfully. I hope everyone else feels the same.”;
Directly and figuratively, it stands empty without stands. Nothing can change the energy provided by fans.
However, during the pandemic, the NHL is bringing the game to its home by introducing 24 teams at two centers – 12 Eastern Conference teams in Toronto, 12 Western Conference teams in Edmonton – into an unprecedented TV tour.
The first thing you notice is the gaze. The seats at the bottom of the lower bowl are covered, and the area behind the benches has been replaced with sophisticated lighting and huge video screens.
The lighting was dim, with only the NHL, Flyers and Penguins logos on display on Tuesday. However, the lighting will be impressive and the screens will be linked to TV broadcasts with different types of content when the qualifiers start.
“We’re going to play with the broadcasts because these screens are really meant for broadcasts,” Riva said. “We really care about what’s needed for our broadcast, and we work with partners to see what works and what doesn’t.”
When the hockey falls and your eyes focus on the ice, the next thing you will notice is the sound. The building is quiet during the game, so you can hear screams hitting sticks, skates, scrubbing ice, and player shouts. Suppose there is a reason for a TV delay of five seconds.
“It’s really a different vibe,” said the Flyers defender Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I don’t know how it will be playing real games if he’s fired. Of course, you miss the fans.”
That’s why there’s virtual crowd noise during TV broadcasts, so the NHL uses the horns of the target and music from each team’s home arena in the building square.
The Flyers were the home team on Tuesday, so the NHL used its playlist before each period. But for that, the horns of each team’s goal, the goal songs, and the power game prompts were used, and that’s the plan for when the qualifying players will start.
“We’re still trying to maintain energy, even though there are no fans,” Riva said. “We want players to be motivated, too.”
Another thing you noticed: the temperature. It was July 28, usually mid-season, on Tuesday in Toronto at 82 degrees Fahrenheit. And at the ice level inside the arena, the temperature was cool to 56 degrees, 52 percent. Moisture.
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The NHL has built a new sheet of ice at the Scotiabank arena. With the exception of one official ski, this exhibition was the first surface test. The next test came a couple of hours later when the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto’s Maple Leafs played in the second duel.
“We need to address a number of issues related to the loading dock and closing the doors, but we are not loading the building, which is home to 18,000 people,” said Derek King, NHL’s chief of operations operations overseeing the ice crew. “A team of engineers assembled it.”
Last but not least, you notice a strict medical protocol.
Players came on the field wearing masks. During the television, the ice crew wore gloves and masks. During periods, a crew of cleaners sterilized the bench areas, wearing masks, gloves, and medical gowns. Between games, he sterilized everything again – benches, penalty areas, lockers. This not only replaced the water bottles but also replaced the water bottle holders.
It continues to be an unfinished job, nothing by accident. Take the ice crew. Members found that their usual way of digging was not suitable for social isolation, so after talking to officials who worked on the ice, they were going to try a new model for the second game to stay away from the players.
“We want to make sure we are doing the right thing,” the king said.
Finally, after 138 days without it, we have NHL hockey. It may look different. This may sound different. It can be socially alienated. But he came back.
And the Stanley Cup will soon be at risk.
“It’s interesting to improve and try it in a way during the show games,” Riva said. “Then we can hit the metal that comes on Saturday.”