It’s 2020 and the livin’ is anything but easy. Something as simple as a Game 1 faceoff time can’t be taken at face value anymore.
For the Bruins, in fact, Tuesday night became Wednesday morning.
Nothing goes according to plan in these pandemic times. Weddings canceled. Graduations scrubbed. Bar mitzvahs and baptisms put on hold or rolled ahead to what we hope are better, saner times. Maybe.
The Bruins and Hurricanes arrived at Scotiabank Arena around 5 p.m. Tuesday, standard prep time for what was a scheduled 8 p.m. puck drop. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets already were a couple of hours into their game inside the same downtown arena. Tight game. No one expected it to be different.
The Bruins and Hurricanes lived the game-day ritual. Arrive 2-3 hours prior to faceoff to limber up, stretch, maybe play a little soccer with 6-8 teammates in the hallway outside the dressing room (if allowed), plug in the earbuds, and fire up the iTunes for the motivational pump music of your choice.
Only to find … 8 p.m. arrived and someone ran off with the clock.
The Lightning and Blue Jackets, who officially began their marathon Game 1 tussle at 3:09 pm. Eastern, wrapped up their fourth overtime (not a typo) at 8:47 p.m. Nearly six hours and seven periods into the action, they were still deadlocked at 2.
Roughly two minutes later, NBC Sports Network returned from a commercial break and announced that the NHL decided to send the Bruins and Hurricanes back to their hotels. Game postponed until Wednesday morning. Kind of like a snow day, just without the snow and sleds. In August, the dog days of summer.
Hey, like they always say, that’s how the ol’ puck bounces when you live in a Kafkaesque hockey bubble.
Rather than sit around any longer, and possibly face off alongside the “Late & Later & Latest Show,” the Bruins and Hurricanes were told to return to the arena for an 11 a.m. start, 15 hours after the original start time.
Breakfast at Wimbledon, minus the strawberries and cream. Pucks, lox, and bagels at Scotiabank.
“A good decision,” NBCSN commentator Mike Milbury, the former Bruins defenseman, said during the broadcast. “These guys have been hanging around a long time.”
Per NHL plans established prior to tournament play, games are scheduled to begin 88 minutes after the conclusion of the prior game (if applicable). The break is intended to allow both to teams to skate in their pregame warm-ups, and for rink maintenance personnel to sanitize each bench, a process that takes roughly 30 minutes, and requisite courage.
NHL benches can be messy places, full of sweat, spit, and splashed gallons of water and power drinks. In normal times, they get a quick mop, maybe a wipedown. Because of COVID-19, they’re a job for Mr. Clean in a HAZMAT suit.
As of 9:09 p.m., with the Bruins and Hurricanes hustling back to their hotel rooms some 14 hours prior to Wednesday’s faceoff, the Lightning and Blue Jackets were 3:20 into the fifth overtime period, score still locked at 2.
NBCSN announcer Gord Miller, his voice still at Pavarotti strength and consistency, noted that the slog had officially reached six hours.
Finally, 10:27 into the eighth period of the night, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point sailed a 25-foot wrister high into the net for the 3-2 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
The fourth longest game (150:27) in Cup history was history. It was 9:22 p.m. Elapsed time: 6 hours, 13 minutes.
Had the Bruins and Hurricanes still been on the clock, their faceoff would have been right around 10:50 p.m. Or some 2 hours, 50 minutes after what was planned when the schedule was released Sunday night.
A 10:50 Eastern start would have been terrific for the viewing audience in SoCal, but not so great for SoHo or Charlie Coyle’s buds in South Weymouth. Can you imagine another six-hour game, wrapping up around 5 a.m.?
The Bruins now will play Game 1 Wednesday morning at 11 and Game 2 Thursday night at 8*.
The asterisk: The Blue Jackets and Lightning are scheduled to play their Game 2 inside the same building Thursday, another 3 p.m. faceoff. We know how that goes. Smart money says keep Friday morning open for any and all possible program changes.
Bruce Cassidy’s charges arrived at Scotiabank Arena at 8 a.m. Tuesday for their traditional day-of-game skate. They returned to the hotel for about five hours, reported back to the rink near 5 p.m., only to be loaded back on the team bus some four hours later with a game sheet full of zeros.
According to Cassidy, his players spent their evening hours inside the locker room, watching the Lightning and Blue Jackets. As the OTs played out, league officials apprised Cassidy of what could happen with the start time.
The players grew hungry.
“Food was brought in,” said Cassidy. “Maybe peanut butter and jelly and banana sandwiches. Whatever. Protein shakes. I’m not sure what they had, to be honest with you. I had a piece of pizza, I’m not going to lie to you. It was delicious. It was about 9 o’clock and I was getting hungry, along with the rest of the coaches. I don’t think the players ate that.
“That’s what we did … we just waited it out.”
It’s 2020, and that’s what we all do. As of Wednesday, it will be 155 days since the Bruins played their last real game (a 2-0 win at Philadelphia).
Game 1 is almost here. Just wait.