NHL’s true ‘hockey nerds’ eager to watch playoffs live

HC analyst Kelly Hrudey joins SN Central to predict what will happen in the Eastern Conference, why the Flyers could be the darkhorse, why the Maple Leafs vs. Jackets series is most intriguing, and why the Bruins should be the last team standing.

Is that drool running down Mark Scheifele’s chin? Can you hear Patrick Kane’s pupils dilating?

Surely, Mark Stone and Matthew Tkachuk must feel like they’re in for two weeks of Christmas mornings.

"There will be five hockey games a day, so I know what I’ll be doing," chuckles Jason Spezza, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ resident hockey addict.

Yes, the hockey nerds inside the NHL’s double bubbles will have the same opportunity to gorge themselves at the all-you-can-watch buffet as you will at home.

One of the features of the NHL’s bubbles is luxury suites, so each team has an open door to pop into the Rogers Place or Scotiabank Arena and watch their peers face-off should they so choose. (The NBA is doing same.)

Wednesday’s action was relentless: six games back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back, starting at 12 p.m. ET and not wrapping until roughly 1 a.m. Thursday.

From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.

Several keeners say they’re absolutely planning to take a break from the golf simulators and Xbox marathons to peek in on the competition.

"Oh, yeah. We already talked about it. I think we’re gonna have to keep Boone Jenner away from a lot of the rinks because he’s a great hockey nerd. We had a few jokes going already with him," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno says.

"It’s great. I mean, when are you ever really in a position like this to watch world-class players? Especially at this level, the magnitude of playoffs, to be able to go watch? We don’t really get to watch live games too often. So, it’s a great opportunity."

Stud Columbus defenceman Zach Werenski is quick to pile on: "Yeah, Boone’s a goofy. He’ll be watching all the games."

"I like watching hockey," Jenner confesses, sheepish. "It’s exciting to get hockey back on the TV. It just gets you in that mode."

With no frenzied Maple Leaf Square or earmuffed babies or clever fan-made signs to fill up scene-setting B-roll during Sportsnet and NBC’s playoff broadcasts, we’d love to get a glimpse at the player suites to see who’s attending.

Hey, with some good-natured cross-team banter already taking place online, how fun would it be to catch a glimpse of players cheering, jeering or bringing their own signs to games they’re not involved in?

"Shenanigans have begun," Tom Wilson announced Wednesday.

"I just felt like it. I wanted to say it. That was my opinion. Nobody take my Twitter," David Pastrnak explained. "It was my own fingers that did it. It was a little side bet with Tom from back in the day, and that’s where I would like to leave it."

As one of the dozen or so attendees at Tuesday’s Penguins-Flyers tilt, we can attest the place has plenty of room for company.

We’re 90 per cent sure we spotted Leafs assistant coach Dave Hakstol observing his former club from the good boxes, a few Canadiens and Leafs checked out some shifts before dressing for their own exhibition. And Wednesday the likes of Sebastian Aho and Vincent Trochek caught the conclusion of Tampa’s 5-0 blowout of Florida.

The scene is not unlike a minor hockey team peering through the glass early before it’s their turn at the tournament. Just give ’em a flood.

"I’m excited for that just as a hockey nerd," says Toronto GM Kyle Dubas, aware the first step is admission.

"I never really envisioned looking overly forward to sitting in a rink and watching three games in the middle of August and spending your whole day there watching, but NHL playoff hockey and the ability to sit in Scotiabank Arena and watch three games the entire day is going to be pretty awesome."

Jakob Chychrun perks up when he learns that the Arizona Coyotes will have a private space to take in the Western Conference action instead of crowding around a hotel television.

"It seems like you run into people from different teams every day, so you’re certainly going to want to watch them and see how they’re doing," Chychrun says. "It’s a pretty cool setup to have your own suite. Or you can walk over and just watch a playoff game in person."

Teammate Conor Garland points out that he’ll use the full-ice view to scoop opponents’ tendencies.

"We have a lot of talented players in our conference in the playoffs here right in front of us," Garland says. “So, it’ll be nice to go over there and watch some of those games, see some of those guys you looked up to growing up. Just watching them in person for the first time, really.”

How fun would it be to see suites full of opposing teams on the edge of their seats, taking in a Game 5 sudden death overtime between, say, New York and Carolina? Maybe playing up the action a bit, the way NBA legends do when they watch dunk contests?

Potentially, between Edmonton and Toronto, a whopping 42 games could take place between Monday and Sunday.

Count Foligno in.

"First of all, it’s gonna kill the time that we’re just sitting around in our hotel rooms anyway," Foligno says.

"Let’s be honest, all of us are fans of the game, fans of other players. So, if there’s something you can watch and pick up for a team that maybe you’re gonna play down the road, why not get out there and scout a little bit and just enjoy the game at its finest?

"It’d be a really neat experience, and I’m certain a lot of guys are going to take it up."

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