When you hear the term “Bubble Boy,” inevitably recollections of a Seinfeld episode fill your mind. Now imagine 12 teams full of bubble boys. That’s what you had in the NHL bubbles in both Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta.
The NHL did a masterful job in restarting its season and keeping everyone safe, as not one player has tested positive for COVID-19 during the playoffs. In a recent video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Taryn Hatcher, Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere applauded the league’s efforts.
“We were testing every day," Laperriere said. "We felt safe, we knew everyone around us was safe. Everybody was wearing a mask, too. I think it’s an unbelievable job that the league did.
“We were in a beautiful hotel, with a real gym. Not like a hotel gym. A real gym with tennis courts and we played pickle ball. I haven’t played tennis in 20 years, but I played tennis in the bubble. My hips are still hurting from it."
Assistant coach Mike Yeo echoed much of the same sentiments as Laperriere, but did say the bubble had its set of challenges.
“For the most part, it was a very positive experience," Yeo said. "The league did a phenomenal job, but six weeks in one hotel room — for sure, sometimes it felt like the walls were closing in on you. I felt some of the days where we didn’t have anything, that’s when it felt a little long.”
While it may have felt like Groundhog Day sometimes, unlike Billy Murray’s portrayal of Phil Connors in the movie, for the cast of characters in orange and black, each day in Toronto was different. The days in which the players and coaches were counting down until faceoff were quite an experience, according to the assistant coaches.
“The excitement of playing hockey again in the playoffs after that pause — the game days were awesome and practice days broke it up,” Yeo said. “Once the puck dropped, it was game on. It was playoff hockey. It was playoff intensity. It was playoff emotion. It was definitely very, very fun to be a part of.”
Laperriere, a former Flyers player, did provide this caveat.
“Just to see an empty building, it was kind of weird, but you watch the game and I felt like guys gave their all,” he said. “Especially our guys in Philly, in the playoffs it’s wild. There’s orange everywhere and there’s no way to replicate that.”
So, despite the Flyers' exit in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the bubble experience and the circumstances which surrounded it can only be described as a success and something Laperriere will never forget.
“It’s something we’ll look back in 20 years and say we were part of it," Laperriere said. "It was different, but I was proud to be a part of it.”