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Bubble Fatigue Cited As Mental Challenge During NHL Playoffs

The hotels might be posh, their amenities and service first rate, and yet life inside the NHLs two playoff bubbles isnt exactly glamorous.

Having spent nearly a month cooped up at the tunnel-connected hotel-arena complex in Edmonton, Alberta, Rick Bowness acknowledged theres times hes had to coax himself to step outside to bask in the sun and breathe in some fresh, non-filtered air.

If people think living in a bubble is great, its tough. Its mentally tough. And everyones making the best of it. the Stars interim coach said after Dallas advanced to the second round with Game 6 victory over Calgary last week.

Its not your typical playoffs. Its not, where, OK, you play, you jump in your car and you go home or whatever. Its none of that. Its play, go back to your room, Bowness said, beginning to laugh. This isnt as easy as you think it is.

Bowness emphasized he wasnt complaining, but simply noting the challenges that come with the NHLs most unique of playoffs, which havent yet reached the halfway mark in a bid to award the Stanley Cup by early October or sooner.

Listen, he said. Until you live in this, you have no idea what were doing, what were going through.

The potential for NHL bubble fatigue is real.

The close confines, daily COVID-19 testing, lack of freedom to venture beyond the security fences surrounding hotels and arenas in Edmonton and Toronto, and the separation from family can weigh heavily on everyone. Teams have access to outdoor stadiums in both cities, and the NHL has also arranged golf outings on off days, in which players are bused to and from the facilities with no access to those outside the bubble.

Its hard when youre in that type of environment because its almost like youre in prison, said Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman after Chicago was eliminated by Colorado in five games in the first round.

When the pandemic hit, you could still leave your house, you could walk outside and get some fresh air, Bowman added. But here, I think its the mental toll that youre kind of trapped. You cant go anywhere. And over time, it does start to get to you.

Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet noted the bubble-related challenges during his teams three-week stay, which ended with back-to-back 7-1 losses to…


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