CODE COVID: What the pandemic has taught us about long-term care
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19 today
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
Business Tool Kit 2021
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Daily forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
The Heroes of 2020
Winning the second half of the Daly Double is turning out to be far tougher than winning the first.
The first half of the Daly Double was won by Bill Daly’s team by a Secretariat-like margin. The second is out of the gate and it’s neck and neck whether the NHL or COVID is in front.
NHL deputy commissioner Daly was the point man for a near-perfect performance producing their return-to-play project with Hub City bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton.
Every second day since, it seems, there’s been an NHL COVID-19 related announcement.
Tuesday, it was Vegas Golden Knights “out of an abundance of caution,” isolating their entire coaching staff with general manager Kelly McCrimmon, the former Brandon Wheat Kings coach and GM, taking over behind the bench for a game against the St Louis Blues.
Two days before that was the announcement of seven games involving five teams, Carolina, Nashville, Florida, Tampa Bay and Columbus, had been rescheduled due to coronavirus pandemic-related issues.
Before that was the $100,000 fine to the Washington Capitals for COVID protocol violations that resulted in Alex Ovechkin and three other players forced to head to quarantine to miss at least four games each.
And, of course, the season started with four Dallas Stars games postponed due to an outbreak at training camp.
Before he became engaged in the battles to keep the MHL up and running, the only place Daly was high profile was in Edmonton, because he was the guy celebrated almost annually holding up the Oilers logo card at the NHL Draft Lottery and the picture of him holding up the gold one that brought Connor McDavid to town.
Holding up a card in a TV studio or presenting the conference championship trophies are Daly’s annual appearances for the man behind the scenes. But for almost 11 months now, Daly has visibly been the hands-on, day-to-day get-it-done guy for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. And there’s been no way to do that without being visible.
“The entire experience has been immersive,” is how Daly referred to it in a one-on-one interview with your correspondent two weeks into Return To Play, Part 2. “There are so many things to think about and so many decisions to make that are outside our normal comfort zone. Never a dull moment.”
You can’t be a successful deputy commissioner without being a real team guy and that hasn’t changed.
“It’s been a real team effort with lots of people, both at a club level and a league level, working hard every day doing everything within our power to give us our best chance to succeed,” he said.
While there were real worries before the 24 teams checked into the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles, with positive tests at training camps. But once they checked in, it was a total triumph with not a single positive test in either Hub City. None of the other leagues came close to matching that.
“Obviously, we were very pleased with our success this past summer but we have never really had a chance to reflect on it. Our focus immediately shifted to this season and an all new and different challenge that has been and is even more challenging,” said Daly.
The hope here is, now that the teams will be getting used to life in portable bubbles, playing games in empty arenas in the seven cities, and have the examples of the failures of others that didn’t take the protocols seriously, Daly won’t have to fine and confine players like Ovechkin and the four Washington players.
Daly said any further Washington-type situations will be met with the same response.
“I think we need to react appropriately whenever there is a disregard of our protocols,” he said. “Too much is at stake for all of us to turn a blind eye to practices that exacerbate risk.”
So, here he is, hoping to keep all eyes focused on hockey, not coronavirus testing, and he’s not sure yet if he’s winning or losing.
“We knew going in that it was going to be a challenge — and in many respects a much bigger challenge than our return to play last summer posed,” said Daly. “By definition, we are relying more on the co-operation, vigilance and good sense of our players and other team members in order to be successful. We have less control than we did last summer. But that was understood and anticipated. And, quite frankly, it was necessary.
“We didn’t have any way to estimate going in what the early season would look like. It’s presented some rough waters for sure. But by the same token, I think we are all being sanitized to the landscape we are faced with and I believe we will learn from every misstep we take along the way.
“I expect, or certainly hope, that things will get a little easier as time goes on. But time will tell.
“We still fully expect to complete a 56-game season. We are not in the process of contemplating any contingency plans.”
E-mail: [email protected]
On Twitter: @byterryjones
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021