(TORONTO, ON)– The initial question from Pittsburgh Hockey Now drew a smirk, then a laugh from Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who immediately deferred to his media table partner Tristan Jarry. Five of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and some of the fiercest rivals who admittedly have a healthy dislike for the other, are sharing Hotel X inside the NHL’s Toronto bubble.
With coffee shops, a movie theater, and posh comforts of a country club, have either one yet had an awkward encounter?
The pair of Penguins All-Stars looked at the other. Jarry was typically understated. Letang’s story left a little to the imagination, but the smile gave it away.
“No, just with the guys, you know,” Jarry said. “You walk around. You chat a little bit. It’s not too awkward yet, but when we get playing, maybe the tension will build.”
Letang sat quietly for a moment, then decided to tell his tale. The Penguins are quartered with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. That’s not so bad.
The other two teams in the hotel are long-time Penguins rivals going back at least 40 years: the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers. So, as Letang decided to explore “bubble life” on Sunday after the Penguins checked in to Hotel X, he came face to face with 31 players who generally don’t like him.
Kris Letang, meet the entire Philadelphia Flyers team. Flyers, meet the defenseman Shayne Gostibhere body slammed last year to win a regular-season game.
“Maybe the first day, we were trying to look around, I ran into the entire Philly team, so…” Letang said. “So, it was a little awkward, but I know Mr. Voracek really well. He made me feel a little bit better.”
Mr. Voracek, eh?
The first encounter must have been more than a wee bit awkward. Twitter follower and fantastic photographer Michael Miller tweeted this about the meeting.
— Payd (@PensRyourDaddy) July 29, 2020
The moment was probably the first of a few awkward moments between players as the summer camp setup gives way to vicious competition for the Stanley Cup.
One can imagine the tense meeting if the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers were embroiled in heated Round One or Two matchups. One assumes the meeting wouldn’t be any friendlier if it were the Penguins running smack into Ivan Provorov.
Even though the Penguins don’t have a “bully” reputation to live up to, nor do the Penguins have a 6-foot-4 pounder who likes to pummel people as much as score goals, a few tense encounters may occur.
Letang finished his quick story without divulging more details. And then he smirked again.
You and I will just have to wonder what was behind the wry grin. There figures to be a few more of those encounters, too, but at least we have hockey, and the NHL has zero new positive tests.
Just watch where you’re stepping. Game on.