When the world came to a halt back in March when the pandemic was declared due to the COVID-19 virus, no one knew when life would go back to some sort of normality. Among those people were the Boston Bruins, who were just about to finish their 2019-20 season.
The Boston Bruins were atop the NHL when the league decided to put their season on pause. Then, in late July, the NHL was back with a plan to enter the playoffs after a reseeding tournament. The Bruins would finish fourth in their conference, yet won the President’s Trophy for the season.
While the Bruins were one of the hottest teams pre-pandemic, when play resumed, there was almost a different feel to the team. Some chemistry was lost; players opted out of the bubble, and the Bruins struggled to find the back of the net which would ultimately end their season in round two against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Since obviously the phase two, if you want to call it, everybody made some huge sacrifices and we were a committed group to get back to where we left off at some point in March,” said Boston Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara post-game about life in the bubble. “I think that everybody showed up in great shape, ready to play, committed to come into the hub city, and do whatever it took to play the best hockey that we could. I’m very proud of the group. Guys were playing very hard and doing whatever they could to win games. It’s a learning experience for many players and hopefully this will make this group stronger and more resilient for the future playoff runs.”
It was definitely a learning curve for every player, coach, and staff in the bubble, as they were all away from their families and friends for a couple of weeks. But, head coach Bruce Cassidy believes the NHL made the transition relatively smooth and efficient.
“There was a commitment to be here, a lot of sacrifices for every player that’s here, management, worker, to be away, you’re confined,” said Cassidy. “I still think the situation, the NHL handled it terrific, the accommodations, but you’re still confined to a certain extent, and that’s different so you have to be mentally dialed in so to speak and to find structure in your day that’s different than normal life.”
Cassidy continued to comment on how when in the bubble, everyone became accustomed to seeing each other every day; at the rink, eating, bonding, etc.
“You probably reflect on what you did for the five, six weeks a little better because it’s become routine for us,” said Cassidy. “Some lonely days too, you miss your family, but the end of the day, that’s the commitment you make if you want to win the Stanley Cup. That was the ask this year and here we are, but we’re not going to get that opportunity this year obviously.”
Boston Bruins Know Bubble Is Not An Excuse
Like most teams found out, the rust would be real after being off the ice for three months and not playing a game for five. Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron acknowledged that while there were a lot of factors that the Bruins and other teams could not control, they were all in the same position.
“There was definitely a different training camp with lots of guys coming in and out. Not being able to skate and whatnot,” said Bergeron. “We really didn’t get the training camp that I’m sure we were hoping for. That being said, I know that around the league, we weren’t the only team that was going through that. I think that we’ve always been a team that’s been comfortable with the uncomfortable, I guess. Those were things that we couldn’t control and that we had to find a way. And that’s it. I don’t think we – I don’t want to use that as an excuse to be honest with you because we were 24 teams in the same situation.”
But, the playoffs were still the playoffs. All 24 teams were fighting to win the Stanley Cup. Sure, no fans were allowed to watch in-person, but the end result is the still same.
“Obviously it was definitely a unique experience with being in the bubble with no fans,” said Bergeron. “That was definitely was unique. Obviously, the outcome is the same. Still giving out the Stanley Cup and still competing on the ice. It was an adjustment. Let’s be honest. That being said, yeah. It is the type of team that we have. But then we fell short and it’s definitely tough to take right now.”
Bruins Thankful To Be Playing
There is a lot of uncertainty across the globe right now. And so, the Bruins understood that they were lucky to go back to playing the sport that they all love. That being said, if there is one thing that is certain, they do not regret taking time away from their loved ones for a chance to get back to their job.
“With the pandemic going on, you never know what’s going to happen,” said alternate captain David Krejci. “So, it’s just kind of – I just got a little sad right now. At the same time, I don’t regret coming into this bubble and fighting for the Stanley Cup. If I would have to do it again, I would.”
It was not the end that the Bruins had hoped for but, they are thankful for the bubble life experience and understand that there are bigger issues to worry about.
“It’s easy to be thinking, what if. Things happen. Those things happen without any of us who are in control of them,” said Chara. “I think the whole world kind of had to be kind of thinking about other things and everything was kind of put on hold. We realize that that’s something that could be different, but at the same time, we all went through it. Every team and every sport. Every country pretty much. That’s just, what if is kind of something we can be sitting here and giving different opinions and thoughts. I think we all realize that, at that point, the health and safety was the priority for all of us.”