Don’t look now, but it’s starting to feel like May in Chicago.
Hockey is back after coronavirus-related delays, with 24 teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks, hoping for a shot at NHL playoff season glory. But unlike the traditional playoffs, the teams are now playing games inside “bubbles” in two Canadian cities — Edmonton and Toronto — to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Reset talked with former Hawks Hall of Famer Denis Savard after the Blackhawks’ dramatic Game 3 win against the Edmonton Oilers. Here’s what he had to say about playing hockey during a global pandemic and the team’s quest for another Stanley Cup.
On holding a playoff series in the middle of summer
Denis Savard: With everything that’s going on the last few months, it’s kind of neat to see. I’ve been watching almost three games a day. … So for the hockey fans and Hawk fans, I think it’s tremendous. … I’ve been very impressed how intense and how fast the games are played. I mean, I know that we do skate around 12 months a year now, especially our young guys, but it’s still difficult to take time off in March and come back in August and obviously compete for the Stanley Cup.
On the weirdness of playing in an arena with no fans
Savard: There was a lot of our music that was played when we scored and there was … some of our fans cheering on the screens. …You can’t duplicate fans live. Obviously, that’s impossible. But I’m sure that as a player, you get that feeling just by listening to voices and listening to the sounds that you’re used to. … When you play the game, you hear the fans. You see them. But you’re so focused on the game itself that sometimes, you know, it doesn’t translate to your play on the ice. But for sure, in between whistles and between breaks and scoring chances, [fans] are cheering you on. … I know the players are missing that. But, in this new normal, it’s just the way it is for now. And we know hockey is going to be back with our fans, and we know it’s going to work out soon enough.
On the NHL’s “bubble”
Savard: Being in the bubble, obviously, it’s a different thing for all the players. But … you’ll see this, I think, as we move along here. Teams will have to travel. I think the intensity is going to pick up. The pace is going to pick up. It’s going to be great. … It’s been great already. But I could see that, you know, some of the games that I watch, it’s a Stanley Cup. You know, guys want to be champions. They want their names on there. So it’s gonna be tremendous the rest of the way.
On the road to the Stanley Cup
Savard: In the playoffs, it’s about staying healthy. It’s about momentum, special teams and obviously goaltending. And we have experience, obviously, in all of that. So it should be fun.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to hear the entire conversation.