The National Hockey League and ESPN+ have partnered up for “Quest For The Stanley Cup,” a docu-series that follows playoff teams as they compete for winning one of the greatest titles in sports. Now streaming on ESPN+, the all-access docu-series gives fans an in-depth look at what goes on behind the scenes of your favorite NHL playoff team on and off of the ice. The trials, tribulations, laughs, excitement, pain, and tears are all on display during the first episode of season 3 titled “Double Bubble.” The episode starts on August 20, 2020, and documents the events surrounding the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
Life in the Bubble
In a year that has been like none other thanks to the coronavirus, professional sports have been played in isolated bubbles without fan attendance. The NHL has not been exempt from this, as they have set up 2 bubbles, with 1 in the hub city of Toronto and another in Edmonton. The Toronto bubble houses the Eastern Conference teams while Edmonton is the home of the Western Conference teams. The bubbles hold a combined total of 750 players who have been spending a lot of time stuck in a close space with each other.
Due to the coronavirus, players aren’t allowed to leave the bubbles because of the risk of infection, and they’re tested daily with a nasal swab to monitor any risk of a spread. There’s a scene that follows a player as he follows all the proper testing protocol and a gruesome close-up of the nasal swab. When off the ice, not only do they spend time with their teammates, but they see their opponents in all of the communal places. The players share the same hotels, lounging areas, courtyards, and eat at the same restaurants which leads to a monotonous experience off the ice that can prove to be mentally challenging. Since there aren’t any fans permitted into the arena, it leads to a jarring experience once the players take the ice in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena or Edmonton’s Rogers Place yet it is an even playing field since no team has home-ice advantage.
The Teams and Matchups
When the NHL restarted the season, 24 teams were invited to begin to play in the bubbles, “Quest For The Stanley Cup” picked up in the Second Round where we’re down to the final 8 teams. The First Round saw the demise of the previous 2 defending champs. The 4 teams representing the Eastern Conference are the Eastern Conference regular-season champions and the highest-scoring team, the Presidents’ Trophy winners, and #4-seeded Boston Bruins versus #2-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning. The other battle in the Eastern Conference is the #1-seeded Philadelphia Flyers versus the #6-seeded New York Islanders. Representing the Western Conference is the #2-seeded Colorado Avalanche versus #3-seeded Dallas Stars. The other Western Conference battle is #1-seeded Vegas Golden Knights, #5-seeded Vancouver Canucks.
Best Moment on the Ice
The episode does a phenomenal job at capturing the tense moments as teams are losing and trying their best to mount a comeback. The best example of resilience on display was when the Colorado Avalanche came back to win game 3 versus the Dallas Stars. Dallas was up in the series 2-0 heading into game 3 but they were losing 3-1 in the second period. The Avalanche went from debating on whether or not to even play game 3 yet here they were winning. However, by the 3rd period, Dallas took a 4-3 lead, which in previous games when Dallas took the lead they never relinquished it. This time the Avalanche showed grit as they came back and won the game 6-4.
Best Moment Off the Ice
The docu-series captures the thought process as the NHL decides what to do after the fallout of the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The off-the-ice star of the series was Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves. Ryan Reaves is one of the few Black players in the NHL and he discusses what it’s like to see his fellow NHLers speak up about social issues in a predominately white sport. Since the NHL is mostly made up of Canadian and European players a lot of the social issues that go on in the United States doesn’t hit as close to home.
The NHL decided to postpone the playoffs for a couple of days like the other major North American professional sports league. The players showed a united front and spoke about ways they can help to use their voice and platform for a positive change in society. The NHL has adopted the slogans “End Racism,” “We Skate for Black Lives,” and “We Skate for Equality” to show that there are more important things than sports.
Have you watched “Quest For The Stanley Cup” yet? In the comments below, let us know what are your thoughts and who do you think will win the Stanley Cup?