One of the best quotes ever about the game of hockey comes from the great Jim McKenny. He said, “half of the game is mental, the other half is being mental.”
In 2020, playing hockey inside of a bubble, staying mentally sharp both on and off the ice is going to go a long way in determining which teams succeed and which fail.
You’ve got nothing else to do. You (only) think hockey. -Jonathan Machessault
Literally plucked away from their families, friends, and society as a whole, the NHL’s method of keeping players safe is working incredibly well, but it’s also bound to start taking a toll on the minds of the players involved.
It’s hard. You know, you talk to them every day and also as a parent you miss a lot of things. My one-year-old started walking and my two oldest have started school. So it’s really unfortunate to miss those. They are asking me every day how many days until they are going to see me but I mean it’s hard for me to give them an answer. -Marchessault
The Golden Knights have been in the “bubble” for 23 days and they aren’t even through the first round of the playoffs. If things go well, that number could reach north of 60.
The league’s plan at the beginning was to allow players’ families to join for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final, but those plans remain “up in the air” according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
It could be possible later in the playoffs but it’s not an ideal situation. We’ll just see where it gets us. I’m not trying to stress over it really, I’m just here to focus on tomorrow and take it one day at a time. It’s definitely challenging and hard but at the end of the day we’re here to win. -Marchessault
Dealing with the distractions, or lack thereof, is going to be a major component to success in the playoffs. It can be framed as a positive but it can also crop up as a negative, especially when the goings get tough for either a team or an individual.
At home, distractions are important for players to get their minds off hockey, to take themselves away from the gravity of playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs and attempting to live out a life long dream. We’ve heard countless stories of players who have a tough night on the ice, and the greeting when they return home from their children completely wipes away any bad feelings.
This year, that won’t exist. But, there’s a flip side as well.
During the regular season you hear coaches talk sometimes about looking forward to getting your group on the road. You get that bonding, you get the limited distractions of not having family and friends and kids and things like that around. That’s obviously a two-headed coin in that it’s nice but it’s also an important part of these guys’ lives and this is hopefully a long run we’re in here for. -DeBoer
You don’t have to think about how many tickets you need and all that stuff it’s just we’re here to play hockey and win some hockey games. I mean after last game, you lose the game and after I was like I just can’t wait to play another game because I’ve got nothing else to do here. -Marchessault
Focus on the game should be at an all-time high as players and coaches literally have nothing else to occupy their time. And while everyone says it every year in a normal playoff atmosphere, this year we can be certain that every single person in the bubble has the exact same singular focus on winning the Cup.
Being 1,500 miles away and only able to interact with the players and coaches via Zoom press conferences will make it nearly impossible for media and fans to get a true sense of where everyone is mentally, but that doesn’t make the importance of it any less significant.
Some guys will handle it, some won’t.
So far, the Golden Knights seem to be doing just fine finding the positives.
That’s the one good thing about the bubble, right? If you don’t turn on the TV you don’t really have hear too much (about a goalie controversy). -Marc-Andre Fleury