After being kept in a “bubble” for nearly two weeks during the NHL playoffs this year, two staff members for the Winnipeg Jets say they had an experience like no other.
Jay McMaster, the head equipment manager for the Jets, said his 12 days in Edmonton didn’t have the typical playoff vibe.
“It was sure different,” McMaster said. “It felt more like a special event game, like an outdoor game. There was just so much moving around.”
His crews filled up an 18 ft. box truck and back half of an airplane with equipment, including 540 new sticks, skate sharpening machines, glove dryers, crates and laundry bins they’d typically keep at home.
All of this equipment had to be moved from one dressing room to another each day at least twice.
“I was doing about 25,000 steps on a game day,” McMaster said. “I was sure feeling it.”
The team went through an estimated 50 gallons of disinfectant to spray down equipment and thousands of protective gloves.
Rob Milette, the head athletic therapist, had to use a new pair of gloves after coming into contact with a new piece of equipment or player.
“You had to be more cautious every interaction with a person that you were changing your PPE, keeping clean, wiping things down,” Milette said.
When the NHL first resumed in the summer after coronavirus cut the season short, the Eastern Conference teams were sent to play in Toronto, while Edmonton was selected as the hub city for the Western Conference teams.
Being in one of those “bubbles” had some feeling isolated.
“Our walk to the rink was basically a concrete hallway so we couldn’t even really see the outside world,” Milette said.
Not to mention, the opposing teams were almost always around each other.
“It was odd staying at a hotel with the team you’re playing in the playoffs, eating right next to them in the meal rooms, you see them every day, Milette said.
The Winnipeg Jets were knocked out of the playoffs early after losing to the Calgary Flames.
As different as the 2020 playoffs had been, both Milette and McMaster said their stay was too short.
“I still wish we were there longer,” McMaster said.
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