nhl bubble toronto

Here's what the NHL bubble in Toronto looks like

Hockey players from all over the world are currently preparing to descend upon the City of Toronto, where they will live, work, eat, play and presumably fight a little bit inside their own weird "NHL bubble" for at least two months straight.

Pro sports in 2020 are a trip.

Toronto is one of two "hub cities" which will see 24 NHL teams gather in predetermined bubbles to resume their 2019-2020 season after a 142-day-long, pandemic-mandated break.

Edmonton will play home to 12 Western Conference teams for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, while Toronto will host the Eastern Conference.

We've known for a few weeks now where each team will be staying within Toronto, and the rules they'll be expected to follow.

Now, as the league prepares to resume gameplay on August 1 at Scotiabank Arena, we're getting more information about the bubble itself.

The NHL released diagrams on Thursday night of their two bubble zones in Canada, complete with details about amenities available to players and team staff, including 14 "on-site diverse restaurants" and eight "golf suites" within the Toronto hub.

Hotel X and the Fairmont Royal York, which will host five and seven NHL teams respectively, feature prominently on the map, as does the Scotiabank Arena, where games will be played.

The bubble maps were revealed during an hour-long presentation to players, coaches and executives on Thursday night in which the NHL gave a "detailed description of what life in the hub cities under the Return to Play Plan will be like."

"This is going to be an unusual, to say the least, endeavour," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during the virtual presentation. 

"It will be challenging at times, but I assure you we, in conjunction with the [NHL] Players' Association who we work with every step of the way, are trying to do everything possible to make this an experience that hopefully you'll never forget, but in a good way."

Twelve teams each will arrive in Toronto and Edmonton on Sunday to prepare for six exhibition games followed by the resumption of the NHL season, which was halted in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NHL already has staff in place securing the bubble zones, and fences have been spotted popping up around Toronto's Exhibition Place, where Hotel X and BMO Field are located.

Branded barriers have also been spotted outside the Royal York Hotel and Scotiabank Arena, though it is not yet clear where, exactly, the cuttoff points will be for members of the public moving through downtown Toronto.

A fencing system will reportedly "run through and enclose the entirety of the bubble" to keep everyone inside and nobody unauthorized from getting in.

Nearly 100 security guards and "health ambassadors" will be stationed throughout the Toronto bubble, according to the NHL.

Everyone inside the bubble will tested daily for COVID-19 and results will be made available within 24 hours.

The league says that, in addition to restaurants inside the secure zones, a concierge system will be in place "to allow anyone in the bubble to get food, pharmaceutical needs and goods delivered from outside vendors."

Players and staff will have access to designated space for indoor and outdoor activities, including movie theaters, player lounges, patio decks and recreational space.

"Players in Toronto will have use of BMO Field in Exhibition Place, home to Toronto FC of Major League Soccer," notes the NHL. "Each hotel has team meeting rooms, meal rooms and fitness facilities. There will also be exclusive areas in the arenas for players to watch the other games."

"Protecting the sanctity of the protective zone, the hub, the bubble, is most and vitally important to ensure that everybody's health and well-being is taken care of," said Bettman during Thursday night's presentation. "Leaving the bubble is just not something we can tolerate."

In terms of what games will look like, the league is promising some pretty nifty modifications that should make up for the complete lack of in-person audiences... and potentially then some.

First, the NHL The League has partnered with EA Sports to use its library of in-game sounds to "mimic some crowd noise."

Goal songs, goal horns, in-arena music compilations and "motivational videos from each of the 24 teams participating" have also been obtained for presentation purposes, as well as "specially produced videos from fans that will replicate some of the chants that go on in teams' home arenas."

"Rather than taking advantage of virtual fans or cardboard cutouts or putting teddy bears in the stands, we've decided that we're going to do something that really caters to the fans at home, the fans that are enjoying the television experience," said NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer. 

"We want to educate them. We want to entertain them. We want to visually excite them."

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