NHL releases details about life in hub cities, in-game presentation

An artist's rendering of what games will look like within the NHL bubble. (NHL_PR/Twitter)

An artist’s rendering of what games will look like within the NHL bubble. (NHL_PR/Twitter)

As the NHL inches nearer and nearer to its return, details about what that return will look like in practice — both on the ice and off it — have started to emerge.

The NHL released a return-to-play information video Thursday night detailing the look and feel of the upcoming playoff tournament. Here’s a breakdown of the key information:

Secure Zones

The NHL’s secure zone in Edmonton will be comprised of four luxury hotels, featuring a diverse variety of on-site restaurants, bars, pubs, food trucks and coffee shops — where those within the zone will be able to enjoy everything from tacos to Tim Horton’s — according to a return-to-play information video put out by the league Thursday night.

The zone will also feature eight movie theatres, dining areas and activity spaces. Among the available activities will be pool, ping pong, cornhole, basketball, soccer and areas to run.

Inside Rogers Place, each team will have a team suite and a player lounge that will include areas to view games, watch T.V. and play cards.

The Edmonton secure zone will also feature 13 dedicated fitness centres, including weight facilities and practice ice rinks.

The Toronto secure zone will be made up of two distinct areas, one at Exhibition Place and one in downtown Toronto.

Exhibition Place features Hotel X — which will have player rooms, meeting rooms, areas to eat, training facilities and other amenities such as a swimming pool and movie theatre — and BMO Field, which will be used as an outdoor exercise and activity space.

Downtown Toronto’s zone will be situated at the Fairmont Royal York hotel. A secure walking path connecting the Fairmont to Scotiabank Arena to be used exclusively by authorised people will allow for travel between the two locations, while maximising safety.

At the downtown zone, players will be able to partake in activities like pickleball and tennis.

The NHL said it is setting up a concierge service, in conjunction with local delivery companies, that will allow players and staff to order items from pharmacies, department stores, grocery stores and food from restaurants in Toronto and Edmonton.

Part of the NHL’s stated focal point is ensuring the safety of its players and staff during the restart. To that end, in Toronto, there will be 64 walking and hotel security guards, as well as 33 health ambassadors at Scotiabank Arena. In Edmonton there will be a total of 125 security members and health ambassadors.

When games are taking place, players who are not participating will be able to watch and attend games.

Support for Front-line Workers and Social Justice

As part of its efforts to do more than put on an enjoyable hockey spectacle, the NHL also announced a new initiative involving special theme nights.

On Aug. 1, two games — Chicago vs. Edmonton and Montreal vs. Pittsburgh — will be devoted to front-line pandemic workers and those who are fighting for social justice.

To further the cause of social justice, the NHL will be implementing a new campaign on Aug. 1 called #WeSkateFor.

The ‘We Skate For’ initiative will be featured in venues and on helmets, and can include customisable messages depending on a team and player’s desired statement.

#WeSkateForBlackLivesMatter and #WeSkateForEquality were two examples provided by the league.

In-Game Presentation

The league is promising a unique look and feel to every game played, including the local goal horns and songs of each team participating.

Fans of each of the 24 teams participating have replicated chants that will be played in the arena. These in-game sounds will be combined on the broadcast with supplemented crowd noise provided by EA Sports. The broadcasts will also be on a five-second delay.

From the start of opening night, there will be a uniquely Canadian feel to the presentation, according to the league, as Michael Buble, four-time Grammy winner and noted Vancouver Canucks super fan, will be singing the national anthems.

The puck drops on the action starting Aug. 1 with a jam-packed slate of five games on Sportsnet and on SN NOW, starting with the New York Rangers versus Carolina Hurricanes at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT.