These are different times; or the new norm as many like to call it.
Everyone is tasked with adjusting to these times. For me, on Monday, July 13, I was tasked with my own adjustments ... in order to watch and report on hockey. Suffice it to say, for me, life — and my simple adjustments, considering all things — could be much worse. I was happy to return to Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for the first time since March 11, a span of 124 days.
The Flyers were back to work at their practice facility with the opening of training camp in preparation for the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.
Monday, July 13, was different — and that's OK. I'm going to enjoy as we adjust.
Here was a different day at Flyers practice (with plenty of hand sanitizer and wearing my mask):
I arrived to the facility at 9:23 a.m. and hung tight in my air-conditioned car. Not too bad, right?
Gritty was probably back inside on the elliptical and hitting the bench press. Respect the grind.
Typically, I would walk in through the front doors of Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone at my own leisure, head upstairs, get situated and prepare for the day at hand.
On Monday, though, media members permitted back to the facility had to enter between 10-10:30 a.m. for a temperature and symptom check. Wearing a mask (as all were in the facility), I passed my temperature check, filled out a form answering symptom questions, and was on my way upstairs.
Good to be back. Hope everyone is staying safe and well! pic.twitter.com/TbWvaDbWpm— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) July 13, 2020
There is a ton of space in the common area upstairs. Instead of all reporters cozying up in the more confined media room on that level, the Flyers and Skate Zone set up separate workstations for each writer in the common area with proper social distance.
Very safe and very nice of them.
At one point, I think I nearly drank my coffee through my mask; we made it work.
But I digress.
When the morning and afternoon practices were held, we could stand and watch from the media room, which has windows that overlook the ice. We were asked to maintain social distance when doing so ... no biggie at all. When practices wrapped up (or whenever we needed to), we could head back to our individual and assigned workstations.
During development or training camps, entering the rink area and watching along the boards is an awesome luxury. It provides a terrific vantage point to shoot video, take notes, snap pictures, analyze drills and gain a greater insight of the competition.
Currently, no media members are allowed to enter either of the two practice rinks and understandably so. Not the end of the world as we can still observe from upstairs with a great view.
Matt Niskanen excited for Sean Couturier. pic.twitter.com/keJuTuxG5B— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) July 13, 2020
Alain Vigneault back at it. pic.twitter.com/mUUh1gd8i0— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) July 13, 2020
Good to see faces, even on video
Normally with practice, whenever the first skater heads off the ice following a practice, we all scurry downstairs and toward the Flyers' dressing room for access to interview players and head coach Alain Vigneault.
Conversing with players in person and 1-on-1 is what I've missed greatly during the coronavirus pandemic. Building relationships and telling stories are what make our jobs special. Access to a locker room is so beneficial because it offers you an emotional sense for the story, allows you to see and feel beyond the score of a game and what happened on the ice.
Right now, having close interactions in media scrums or tight quarters is not feasible or logical. But it's still great to see faces of colleagues or Flyers personnel from a distance or via video.
From our workstations using Webex, we were able to interview Vigneault, general manager Chuck Fletcher and players Matt Niskanen, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny.
Raising your hand virtually ain't so bad. It's like a supremely organized way to work in your question. And everyone could hear us through our masks.
“Frankly our focus is getting him ready for the 2020-21 season.”— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) July 13, 2020
- Chuck Fletcher on Nolan Patrick pic.twitter.com/qcMS5FxBqb
Alain Vigneault knows round-robin games are important, but he said it’s safe to say he’s going to use more than 20 guys in that time. pic.twitter.com/IIygY13c26— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) July 13, 2020
Stick taps to all those involved
So many deserve a ton of credit for creating a safe environment in uncharted waters.
Three folks who are always helping and have made these waters as smooth as possible for us media: Flyers senior director of communications Zack Hill, director of public relations Joe Siville and manager of broadcasting and media services Brian Smith.
Following the final interview around 3:30 p.m., it was time to pack up and hit the road. We usually can stay as long as we'd like to write and work but the Flyers have asked media members to exit the premises approximately 15 minutes after the last virtual press conference. Again, completely understandable.
I've always liked staying at the facility to work. It's pretty quiet and there's a rink. Then I can drive home at a calmer hour.
But these are different times and we all need to adjust. Like a hockey team, everyone plays a part.
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