At the end of an historic day for the NHL, Brad Treliving summed up the relief that closed four months of the unknown.
“I like Zoom, and Zoom was good at keeping everyone in touch, but … uncle,” said Calgary Flames’ GM, whose weekly online meetings with local media types aroused envy among scribes across the league.
“Let’s start. Monday can’t come quickly enough.”
Late Friday press releases confirmed that the NHLPA and NHL have officially approved a return-to-play plan and a four-year CBA extension that will make the league the envy of its athletic brothers.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people all over the hockey world and tell the audience everything about what they heard and what they think about it.
With just three days’ lead time before 24 teams open for nearly two weeks of training camps, the league has created the conditions for what may be the most fascinating playoff format in the game’s modern history.
For the Calgary Flames, this means a start on August 1 for a showdown of the best-of-five qualifying round with the Winnipeg Jets, which could be completed in just four days.
That is the kind of urgency that is required to move forward.
“Regardless of whether you have three games in four nights, a best-of-five is quick no matter how you play it,” said Treliving, whose club on August 1st, 3rd and 4th at 8pm in Edmonton against a The Jets team lost 1-2 at the Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
“It will be important how you start. Having a good camp and being prepared is crucial. “
Treliving realized that it is important to balance hard work in the camp and make sure that you did not tire anyone. The coaching plan was developed in April in anticipation of the restart on Monday.
“We don’t have much time, but there are still three weeks to go, so we won’t panic,” said Treliving, who admittedly isn’t sure who or when his team will play their only exhibition game in Edmonton after it was on July 26th moved there.
“You want to be careful to make sure that you get the job done, but not all burn out in seven days. The group took care of themselves and skated before they got there. As far as I know, they did it pretty well. “
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A total of 31 players from each team will be allowed to set off for an exhibition game in the league-designed bubble in Edmonton at the end of this month before the real balls fly against a team with as many offensive threats as the Flames. They are joined by 21 people who make up the support staff, who are also tested daily to thoroughly move the league to a return-to-play setup that many thought would not materialize.
By August, the Flames may have to deal with everything from positive tests to players who have the right to sign out before Monday, citing security concerns.
To date, Treliving has not heard from players who have chosen to watch from the sidelines.
“I haven’t, but now that it’s done, we’ll see,” said Treliving, who added that all of his players are in town, “present and responsible.”
“Nobody gave her hand.”
Games four and five are scheduled for August 6th and 8th, if necessary, which means that either the Flames in eighth place or the Jets in ninth place will be eliminated and a 12.5 percent chance of winning the top Junior star Alexis Lafreniere entered the draft lottery soon after.
That is pressure.
“It’s a really good team we’re playing against – a team that has gone through some changes this year but was in the West Final two years ago,” said Treliving. “There are no holes over there. You have a goalkeeper (Connor Hellebuyck) who may win the Vezina Trophy online, a defense with lots of talent and, well, get your poison up front. It’s a big, big job. “
A monumental task for a Flames team that has had playoff deficiencies in the past and has a penchant for slow starts.
At the weekend, the team will announce their training camp schedule to take place at the Saddledome, where a small number of journalists wearing masks will be high up in the stands and watching the boys for the first time since the March 12 break.
Personal interviews are not permitted at any time during the camp or playoff. A small number of scribes are allowed to watch playoff games from the Edmonton press box, but cannot break the NHL bubble by watching the exercises as soon as the league meets in Edmonton.
With players that will be available by phone or zoom after training from Monday, many storylines will unfold.
The Flames are still aiming for a league decision on whether Connor Mackey, who was recently signed, can continue to skate with the club, although his contract will only come into effect next season.
But on Friday, the story was simple: the league celebrated a historic day by officially overcoming two massive hurdles.
“It is a great day when everything is complete,” said Treliving. “For me, the league and the players’ association deserve enormous recognition.
“We all live in this environment and know how difficult it is. It’s incredible to have a plan to return to the game and do a CBA during a pandemic. The ability to find common ground … I just think Gary (Bettman) and Bill (Daly), as well as the league leadership and the PA deserve so much recognition. You speak of two monumental tasks that were done at a time when things changed from Monday to Tuesday. It is a Herculean effort. “