When the Flyers begin training camp on Monday in preparation for the NHL playoffs, there’s bound to be plenty of surprises along the way.
The continued emergence of COVID-19 in this country makes this situation very fluid, and despite the NHL having both of its bubble cities in Canada, there will still be a heavy emphasis on health protocols upon arrival. Flyers center Kevin Hayes thinks the empty buildings will be the thing that stands out most.
“It’s definitely going to be interesting with no fans and kind of being locked in a bubble, but that’s why we play the game. We play to win the Stanley Cup and this is just another chance to do that,” Hayes said Wednesday to Flyers senior director of public relations and communications Zack Hill.
While baseball’s return-to-play plan has teams playing in their home stadiums with no fans present, the NHL and NBA have elected for the bubble plan with the NBA playing entirely in Orlando, Florida, and hockey has targeted Edmonton, Alberta, and Toronto.
Hayes believes while the plan has a downside, there are plenty of silver linings.
“I don’t think anyone wants to live in a bubble at all, but it’ll be kind of nice to be with the guys every day that you haven’t seen for a while," Hayes said. "If they say that’s the safest way to finish the season, I think the guys will be cool with it.”
The players do have the option of not playing and opting out of the NHL’s restart. We’ve seen it with players from the NBA and MLB, with some saying they aren’t going to play for various reasons citing family concerns, health concerns or things of that nature, but for Hayes, this was never on his mind.
“I never considered opting out," Hayes said. "I know the Flyers' organization has done their due diligence on making sure every player is protected and in the safest environment.”
Hayes said he’s been extremely impressed with the protocols that have been in place since he’s returned to Philadelphia after working out with a trainer in Boston for much of the NHL pause.
“I haven’t felt unsafe once," he said. "We pretty much test every day and they take every single situation pretty serious.”
This is certainly a new world for the players, coaches and everyone involved as the league looks to resume, but if Hayes’ perspective is any indication, the Flyers are embracing the challenge in front of them and are ready to get going. This has been an interesting start to his Flyers career for the prized offseason free agent signing and Hayes is hoping to bring the city some hardware, regardless of the time or situation it happens.
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