Virtually 4 months to the day after the NHL season was placed on maintain, the Calgary Flames hit the ice Monday to organize to face the Winnipeg Jets in a best-of-five sequence.
By all accounts, this will probably be a standard coaching camp.
It’s a format you’d count on any fall on any given 12 months earlier than the beginning of a Nationwide Hockey League season with teams of gamers, getting again into the groove of skating with one another, dealing with the puck, passing, capturing, battling and making ready to kick issues off for actual.
Besides nothing about this case is regular.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shifting the world, the NHL paused the common season on March 12. Life has returned to a (considerably) new regular and the NHL is properly on its solution to salvaging the 2019-20 marketing campaign in a ‘Return to Play’ plan.
Virtually 4 months to the day after the season was placed on maintain, Section Three begins Monday as groups hit the ice in mid-summer to start preparations for a makeshift pre-playoff spherical to find out who will compete for the Stanley Cup.
For the Calgary Flames, meaning hitting the ice at a very sanitized and sterile Scotiabank Saddledome and on the point of face the Winnipeg Jets in a best-of-five sequence.
“It is unprecedented,” mentioned Flames head coach Geoff Ward who, as per the NHL mandate, has not been in a position to bodily watch his gamers skate previous to Monday and the beginning of Section 3. “But I think we’re approaching it like the playoffs are a great time of the year. We’re not looking at the ‘play-in’ like the regular season, obviously. It’s a round of five against another team. For us, we’re seeing everything that’s involved in this right now is a playoff situation. The fact that we’re playing at this time of the year and, in our minds, we’re playing games that matter now — that’s exciting for everybody. You can see the veteran players, in talking with the assistant coaches, the veteran players are excited about the prospect of what lies ahead. The coaches are excited, the management is excited. You can’t take the playoffs for granted. When you get there, you have to enjoy it. And we certainly are.”
The Flames’ teaching employees has been assembly with gamers often by means of internet calls and sending video, analyzing components of their recreation based mostly on footage from the 2019-20 common season. Preparations have been going down during the last 4 months to make sure gamers know what to anticipate after they hit the ice on Monday.
“It was a tough process not knowing what to do,” mentioned Flames ahead Mikael Backlund of the preamble earlier than the NHL formally launched plans. “It was hard to leave my family, but it was nice to have a decision made. Was I going? Or was I staying? But I’ll be excited to get going.”
Backlund is just not alone.
On the time of the NHL pause, the Flames had been 70 video games into the season with a 36-27-7 report and, with 12 video games remaining, had been simply starting to play a few of their greatest hockey of the 12 months — which might have been supreme timing contemplating that NHL playoffs often happen within the spring.
However they had been delivered an abrupt ending to their regular-season marketing campaign, and their complete world had been flipped the wrong way up. Gamers went their separate methods and to their properties in several instructions: to Sweden, Czech Republic, the U.S., and throughout Canada.
Now, they’re again and can spend the following few weeks bracing for the Jets, a group they solely confronted as soon as on Oct. 26 in a 2-1 additional time loss at Mosaic Stadium within the 2019 Heritage Traditional out of doors recreation.
“Conditions were way different,” identified Flames ahead Milan Lucic. “The rink was different. There was snow that night, so the puck was bouncing everywhere. Whatever we get from a read on them is going to be from basically video and us just preparing and worrying about ourselves.
“To me, that’s kind of the angle we have to take.”
And, in keeping with Lucic, it’s why Section Three is so essential, nearly extra essential than what an everyday coaching camp is supposed to perform.
“Because you don’t have 82 games to figure it out,” he mentioned. “You have to figure it out off the bat. Some pressure goes on all 24 coaches (of teams still in the hunt for the 2020 Stanley Cup) in a sense in how they get their team ready and prepared.”
A unique method, certainly.
“I mean, you don’t usually have to jump right into it,” mentioned Flames netminder Cam Talbot. “You get seven or eight exhibition games and get a chance to feel it out a bit. Jumping into a playoff scenario is not going to be easy for anybody. I think it’s whoever is the most well-prepared and came to camp ready to go is going to get the best opportunity. I hope that’s us. A bunch of guys have been here for a while now and have been champing at the bit.
“It’s going to be different but it’s going to be fun.”