TORONTO — This is one of the last times I’ll get to use the Toronto byline. I will cover another game or two for the National Hockey Now Network inside the NHL hub city, pack up the car and head home. The great adventure of covering the Pittsburgh Penguins was cut short like a false start or prepaying for a cruise but watching the boat sink as it reached the harbor.
The Penguins mustered only a few shot attempts in the final minutes after Artturi Lehkonen scored. A viewer on our live multi-channel chat on Saturday night asked if I could pinpoint the difference between the Penguins 2016/2017 teams and the current iteration. If I had to sum it up, therein lies the difference.
The Stanley Cup Penguins would have skated through the glass to get to Carey Price. The body language from many players after Lehkonen scored was defeat.
Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist were notable exceptions.
PHN will have more dissection of the series today and tomorrow, as well as more looks into offseason 2.0.
It was quite an experience to cover the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Return to Play. The in-game atmosphere is not as weird as you may think. It took a moment to adjust, but the fake crowd noise was a nice touch. The NHL worked with EA Sports, the video game manufacturer, on the sound, but the league used it smartly.
The NHL didn’t crank the volume on the crowd noise, and, to be honest, I didn’t notice after the first few moments. I believe the players were the same way. The crowd noise became like white noise in the background. You don’t notice it until it was gone, such as when Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans was injured in Game 3.
That was an eerie moment, as Evans went down, and the crowd noise ceased. You could hear players yell encouragement, and then nothing at all as the trainers tried to stop the bleeding and took Evans off the ice.
There also weren’t many reporters here. The NHL didn’t allow many reporters into the venue. I’m humbled and honored that we were approved and was shocked by how few outlets covered the games. The Montreal Gazette was there, as was La Presse. The Toronto Star had a spot. I was the only Pittsburgh outlet.
That was the weirdest part. Here is “my” media room. Me–and me alone–during the Penguins post-game press conferences
Toronto is a gorgeous city. Its architecture has skewed very modernly. Glass towers encircle much of “old Toronto” and the brick buildings. It more resembles an Asian city, in architecture, than an old North American city. But–the Hockey Hall of Fame and the CN Tower?
There is also a belief among many Americans, who obviously don’t often visit, that Canada is a blissful paradise free from the horrors of American society. I’m sorry to disappoint. Toronto has an exploding homeless problem, with many homeless encampments set up around the city. This was part of the view outside my building every day. People use the park around the homeless folks like they’re a part of life. People were playing tennis in the courts behind the tents. On the lakefront, people were having a picnic beside an encampment and a young woman with a barely-there swimsuit was sunbathing just feet away. It’s very…San Francisco, Seattle type attitudes.
I don’t know how to process any of that mentally. It wasn’t uncommon to see people getting dressed, or going to the bathroom in the doorway of a closed store. The encampments are spread throughout the parks, and much bigger than my picture suggests, but I wanted you to see the tennis courts, where people were playing, too. It’s surreal.
And for the record, I’d guess no more than 20% of Toronto residents wear masks until they step into a store or restaurant. And even then, many don’t. It’s part of the passive resistance (instead of aggressive American resistance) up here, “No worries.”
Trying to dodge people, and especially people without masks, doubled the mileage I walked. Yes, I’m a firm masker within 20 feet of anyone.
The story of my life, eh?
No one to play with, or talk to, or ask if they want coffee. But, let me praise the NHL. The arena, the experience, and everything one could think of were covered. The NHL and its people did an extraordinary job to put on a perfect show. It was as impressive as any endeavor I’ve covered. Amenities were short, but that was for safety. I can live without coffee or snacks.
Everything was visually stunning and well proportioned. I cannot say enough about the quality of people who worked the event, or the thought that went into every detail for the games. Just amazing. Thanks, NHL!
But it was odd being alone:
In case you want a little peek behind the scenes at the control center. That is a lot of work happening, a lot of computer power, and only a couple of people.
However, the Canadian national anthem at the arena was a spectacle. It was really beautiful, regardless of who sang or the home team.
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t do their part, but I hope you feel I did mine. From our breakdowns and analysis, being in the arena was incredibly beneficial. I hope you value the coverage we brought. It wasn’t easy but it was worth every cent to do it right.
I’m ready to come home, too. I’ll see you all soon.
Thank you for the donations, the subscriptions, and good wishes. Thank you.