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Inside the Bubble Blog: Ready to drop the puck in Edmonton, Toronto

NHL execs Mayer, Matsuzaki on hard work, final preparations before start of Qualifiers

by Steve Mayer and Dean Matsuzaki / Special to

NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer and League executive vice president of events Dean Matsuzaki -- aka the Mayer of Hub City and Dean of the Secure Zone -- are embedded in the NHL hub cities for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and the duration of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They each will be writing a blog for from Edmonton and Toronto to give fans the latest happenings from inside the bubbles. 

Here are their entries for Friday:  


Steve Mayer in Edmonton

What a week it's been both from an emotional and a physical standpoint.

Our team put in some crazy hours to get us to what is not a day off Friday, but a day off from games.

We tweaked, we added, we really focused on getting our ducks in a row because Saturday is the big day, the big debut of, in our minds, hockey to the world with the start of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. We appreciate the exhibition games, but at the end of the day, we know Saturday is when it counts.

One of the things that's caught my eye all week is a group that doesn't get a lot of credit but are outstanding at what they do, and that's the technical operations team. In our hub, it's led by Dan O'Neill, Adam Lueck and Dave Butler.

These guys are just incredible. They wire the entire universe of an NHL arena, everything from the actual rink itself, replay booths, all the IT infrastructure, statistics. They work directly with the broadcasters to make sure that everything works for them technically. They work behind the scenes in the office spaces making sure they've got televisions running, they've got internet that's at the highest speeds, they've got everything incredibly wired.

This bubble presents a crazy amount of work for them at the hotels and at the all the practice facilities. They even got involved Thursday in a mini problem at the Sutton Place hotel, where the air conditioning went on the fritz.

They're the smartest people in the room and they were able to figure out a solution to keep the player rooms cooler while new parts and new solutions were put in place to fix the problem entirely.

No problem doesn't have a solution when you deal with these guys.

The other kudos need to go to the incredible team of Dan and Mike Craig. This father-son duo is the best in the world at making ice and providing us with the canvas, the playing field, for what we do on a daily basis. They work tirelessly.

It sounds to the average Joe like it would be simple, but it's anything but. With temperatures outside at the 90-degree level, these guys can make ice and keep it as good as it can be.

They also work beyond their hours. In fact, overnight Thursday into Friday, Mike led a team that needed to replace one of the logos in the ice. This is work beyond the job description and these guys do it with the best attitude. There's a real true reason why they're the best in the world at what they do.

We are so lucky to have them in Edmonton.

So we're ready for rehearsals all day Friday. It's not really a day off for us. Every day in the bubble is a working day as we continue to make everything better not only for the players and NHL teams, but our staff as well.

I hope our fans enjoy what we've got planned for them beginning Saturday. We've been working at Stanley Cup Playoff intensity since we arrived in Edmonton and now it's time for the players to do the same.

Video: An inside look at hub city game presentation prep


Dean Matsuzaki in Toronto

Just as fast as the exhibition games started, we played our final one Thursday with the Boston Bruins taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

My day started again with another very efficient visit to the Concert Hall room at the Fairmont Royal York for my daily COVID-19 test.   

I spent a lot of my morning touching base with different departments and groups getting feedback and notes after our first tripleheader yesterday. All in all, I was very pleased to have a fairly short list of action items heading into that game and then through into the Qualifiers. I cannot take any credit for such a short list of tweaks and adjustments to be made; all credit goes to Joe Fitzgerald, vice president of events, and Thomas Meaney, director of events. They are our operations leads for the Toronto hub.  

The two of them have been working nonstop developing iteration after iteration of our arena space plans, working with all departments and stakeholders to make sure everyone has what they need to execute their piece of this tournament. Joe and Thomas are two of the best in the business who have worked on many NHL Events including outdoor games, Cup Finals, All-Star Games and Drafts; but this is definitely a first for them and all of us, planning for this "bubble" environment.

Of course, our staff members are not the only ones pulling long hours, I would be remiss if I didn't recognize Mark James, Caroline Wright and all the staff at Scotiabank Arena and MLSE who have been going above and beyond to make this event happen.

In the afternoon I met with our NHL Health and Safety Group as well as our Compliance officers from Oakview Group to review distribution of masks, wipes and hand sanitizer at all hotels and venues in our hub as well as discuss continued reminders and education on social distancing and wearing face masks in the bubble. We have seen very good cooperation from teams and staffs; however this is something that can't be communicated enough.  

With a couple hours left before game time I will make a few calls to touch base with colleagues in the Edmonton hub to exchange notes and ideas. Always good to keep up with best practices from the other "bubble."

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