So, what’s it like covering a Boston Bruins game in an empty area?
The overriding feeling is gratitude, of course, with the NHL’s 31 teams, the decision makers at the league, the media and the arena employees doing their level-best to make sure things go off safely and without a hitch. It was awesome to be at TD Garden for the first time in 10 months on Thursday night and by overtime of the 5-4 shootout B’s win it sure felt like so many NHL games I’ve watched in that building.
The traditional home opener Bruins team introductions were a little odd to a completely empty building, but David Pastrnak cut through some of the awkwardness by hilariously waving to the imaginary fans. Brad Marchand kept his tradition alive of tossing pucks over the glass to imaginary fans during pregame warm-ups. Stuff like that keeps a smile on everybody’s faces as we endure what’s been almost a year-long journey into global pandemic weirdness.
But there were also definitely moments within the game that felt disorienting because there was no reaction from a live audience.
Most disorienting part of watching NHL hockey games in an empty building is total lack of reaction to great saves from the goalies. Those OT Tuukka Rask saves last night would have normally blown the roof off TD Garden. Full credit to the players for manufacturing game intensity
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) January 22, 2021
Kudos to the Boston Bruins for treating it as normally as they could to a normal NHL regular season game. The adherence to our “normal” experiences when possible, the keeping of traditions through the unthinkable adversity of COVID-19 and pushing forward until society gets back to quasi-normalcy is so important to our society right now. That means a “show must go on” attitude as the NHL attempts to navigate COVID-19 safely and tiptoe through the minefields of cancellations, postponements and any unforeseen setbacks.
That was the overriding feeling with TD Garden seeing it’s first hockey in 10 months.
Hopefully, there will be some percentage of fans in most NHL buildings by playoff-time in May or June and slowly, incrementally we’ll get back to business as usual when it comes to the National Hockey League. But this humble hockey writer believes a giant stick salute is in order for everybody keeping the NHL world turning while we slowly, carefully get through a global pandemic. It won’t be easy, but it’s clear everybody is determined to make it work.
Now on to the puck links:
*The sage of Pierre-Luc Dubois continues in Columbus as the Blue Jackets star center was truly benched by John Tortorella. It has many wondering if things are spinning out of control with a player that clearly doesn’t want to be with the Blue Jackets anymore. (Hockey News)
*Bruce Cassidy peeled some paint in the home dressing room at TD Garden for the first time in almost a year and it worked wonders in the third period for the B’s in a comeback shootout victory. (Boston Hockey Now)
*Since we won’t see the Montreal Canadiens live at all this year with the NHL realignment, here’s a notebook of their weekly activities to help keep tabs on the Habs. (The Athletic)
*Speaking of the Montreal Canadiens, Tyler Toffoli already has five goals for the Canadiens this season. Why can’t the Boston Bruins get players like that?
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) January 22, 2021
*The depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins is getting a big test as a number of players are out of the lineup. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)
*Devan Dubnyk is with the San Jose Sharks now, so it was a little weird meeting the Minnesota Wild for the first time. (The Athletic)
*Apparently, Alex Ovechkin’s wife thinks Russian players are being unfairly targeted with COVID-19 fines. Maybe they should follow the rules like everybody else. That would be my advice.
Alex Ovechkin’s wife, Nastya, posted this on Instagram just now. She says Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov have covid-19 antibodies. pic.twitter.com/ZzxaisAFvW
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) January 21, 2021
*It looks like things aren’t quite so hopeless for the Detroit Red Wings this season and that’s a big development in Hockey Town. (Detroit Free Press)