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 organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19: Organizer of Kelowna anti-restriction protest ticketed for third time

The individual’s latest ticket for $2,300 was handed out by RCMP at an anti-lockdown rally Saturday

Mount Boucherie Secondary School is one of three Kelowna schools with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to an update from the school district Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at 3 Kelowna schools

Interior Health has confirmed exposures at Mount Boucherie, Springvalley and South Rutland schools

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A map released by the BCCDC on Jan. 15 shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for each local health area between Jan. 3 and 9. (BCCDC Image)
Salmon Arm and Vernon see increase in new COVID cases, curve flattening elsewhere

The rate of new cases is levelling off in Kelowna, Penticton and Revelstoke.

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Half of the most expensive homes are on 2080 Mackenzie Crt, which is across the street from Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The 10 most valuable homes in Revelstoke for 2020

Combined, the properties are worth more than $35M

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

More than 20 days have passed since the last case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Lakeside Manor. (File photo)
Salmon Arm retirement facility reopens social areas after COVID-19

More than 20 days have passed since last confirmed case at Lakeside Manor

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Most Read