The Bruins and the rest of the NHL are still playing in empty arenas this season (or mostly empty arenas in the case of the Panthers, Stars and Coyotes), but players seem to at least like the experience of playing this year more than the bubble setups from the summer.
There’s the obvious positive of getting to live at home and be with your family instead of being sequestered in a hotel with no family around.
There’s also the obvious drawback of it being harder to limit positive tests and close contact when you’re not in a bubble. The Stars and Hurricanes have both had several games postponed already, and Wednesday brought news that four of the Capitals’ best players are now in COVID protocol.
Appearing on The Greg Hill Show Thursday morning, Bruins center Sean Kuraly said that in addition to being home, there's one thing he likes more about the in-game experience so far this season compared to the summer.
“It’s still odd, but I would say it’s a good portion better than the bubble,” Kuraly said of this season’s games. “I don’t know if it’s just because the rinks are piping in crowd noise now, and they’re even practicing at like our practice yesterday. Guys would score in practice and they’d play with the crowd noise. That makes a huge difference.
“You guys have always been hearing it on TV, but it wasn’t in the rink in the bubble. It was like eerily quiet sometimes. But it’s been better the last three games we’ve played, and it just feels more normal. You go to a city and the whole routine, besides the mask and the COVID and all the rules, is basically normal, besides we go out to the game and there’s no fans.”
While obviously nothing can replace the atmosphere that a full arena brings, and fake crowd noise might seem like a gimmick, it certainly seems like it’s better than nothing when you listen to Kuraly or other athletes talk about it.
“It was dead silent in between whistles in the bubble,” he added. “There was music obviously, but you could hear anything anyone was saying. Like you’d hear someone chirp someone else, and the whole rink heard it. Or if you were saying something to the ref, everyone heard it. The little noises are welcomed in these early games.”