These days, there really isn't all that much that looks different by the time the Bruins step back on the sheet at Warrior Ice Arena.
Sure, the club hasn’t received the green light to incorporate a full squad — with coaches — on the ice quite yet. But for the eight confirmed players that have taken advantage of Phase 2 of the NHL’s “Return to Play” plan, getting back on the ice stands as the closest return to normalcy in months.
“I've been skating with Par (Lindholm) and Zdeno (Chara),” John Moore said. “The night before, we'll get together and devise a practice plan — the three of us — and talk about what we want out of each skate. And that focus has been really good for the three of us and we've gotten a lot out of the skate so far. ...It's awesome to be back on the ice. I think my wife loves just having me out of the house, if I'm being totally honest.”
But beyond these voluntary, non-contact skates, there isn’t a whole lot that’s normal whenever the Bruins make their way over to Warrior Ice Arena these days.
Before getting out on the ice, players must complete regular temperature checks to gain clearance to the facilities, while testing for COVID-19 was necessary before getting the green light for Phase 2. Those testing protocols — expected to be held twice a week for participating players — is only expected to ramp up even further once Phases 3 and 4 are implemented.
While only non-player personnel on the ice were spotted with masks on over the first few days of Phase 2, athletes must adhere to the same social distancing guidelines off the ice — with six feet of separation required in the locker room and masks necessitated when not exercising.
Add in smaller changes to practices such as individual water bottles and lids for each player on the bench and 12oz bottles of Aquafina and Gatorade in the penalty box, and one thing becomes abundantly clear.
NHL hockey in the time of COVID-19 is going to look very, very different from anything these players have seen before — and that’s long before they even begin playoff campaigns in front of empty, neutral-site arenas.
But for Moore, the extra hoops to jump through — whether it be testing, masks, sanitization requirements and more — aren’t going away any time soon. As such, the only option on the table is for players to adapt to the “new normal” that will be required to usher sports back into our everyday lives.