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Barkov, Panthers ready to embrace safety protocols for Cup Qualifiers

Captain says 'I don't need to go anywhere' except games

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

Aleksander Barkov said he will do whatever it takes to help the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup this season, even if that means never leaving his hotel room between games.

"For me I know the Stanley Cup Playoffs is everything," the Panthers captain said Thursday. "I would not leave my bed other than to just go to games and practices just for the chance to win the Stanley Cup. I live for this and the team lives for this. We want to win. We're going to do everything we can to do it.

"For me I don't really need to go anywhere. I think all our guys are like that. We talk about it in our group chat. I know most of the guys, they can't wait. We know the situation and we're going to handle it very well and try to be as safe as possible."


[RELATED: 5 questions for Panthers in Stanley Cup Qualifiers]


Barkov was referring to the Phase 4 of the NHL Return to Play Plan that would see two hubs cities hosting 12 teams each. The hub cities would have all players in secure hotels, arena, practice facilities and in-market transportation.

The NHL paused its season on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The Return to Play Plan calls for 24 teams competing for the Stanley Cup. The tournament will begin with the qualifiers, which will include 16 teams playing eight best-of-5 series and a round-robin among the top four teams in each conference, bases on points percentage, to determine seeds for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dates and the two hub cities have not been announced.

Phase 2 of the plan, which includes small group workouts, began on June 8. Barkov, who scored 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) in 66 games this season, has been at the Panthers' practice facility in Florida and has been encouraged by the determination of his teammates who have started to return.

"Guys are in good shape and starting to come back," he said. "They're all coming with the mindset that we're going to try to win the Stanley Cup."

Video: FLA@LAK: Barkov puts home wrist shot from the slot

The Panthers (35-26-8, .565 points percentage) are the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference and will play the No. 7 New York Islanders (35-23-10, .588) in a best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifier series when the NHL season resumes. The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Barkov said he has been impressed with the safety precautions that have been implemented as part of Phase 2.

"Our medical and training staffs at our rink have been great," he said. "Can't touch this, can't touch that. You're not really touching anything other guys have. There's minimal contact with other guys. So I feel safe going there. I wouldn't do anything that wasn't safe. Be safe. Don't go to high-risk places.

"Going to the rink has been one of the best parts of my week."

Barkov has been staying in Boca Raton, Florida from the time the season was paused. His mother, Olga, spent the first two months with him but now he's on his own, which in some ways is a good thing.

"My mom left a month ago so that's why we still get along," he said. "I had to learn how to cook, how to clean. Obviously at 24 years old you should be learning how to live on your own. So far so good. It was great having her help me those first two months."

Housework isn't the only new endeavor the center has embarked on.

The Panthers announced Thursday that Barkov has become the third largest shareholder in Tamhockey Oy, the parent company of the Tappara Tampere hockey club of SM-liiga in Finland. The exact amount of his investment was not disclosed.

Barkov, a native of Tampere, began his hockey career in the Tappara minor-league system when he was 4 years old. His father, Aleksander Sr., played for Tappara while Aleksander was growing up.

"This is a huge step for me and a big honor to become an owner of the team where I grew up," Barkov said. "Obviously, if somebody wants to be an owner in the NHL you need to have a lot more money than I have right now. But this a big step for me and obviously like I'm new at this thing, so I'm going to learn every day."

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