By Seth Schlank
From the day the Islanders game against the Flames ended on March 12th, the entire pro sports world came to a screeching halt, as did the entire world. People had their travel plans upended, schools became solely remote and much more. The reason for this- the Coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 is a disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a virus of the coronavirus. On a warm June day, the National Hockey League announced their plans to return to play in order to resume their season, which was paused back on March 12 in an effort to curb the Coronavirus pandemic. The league announced that there would be four phases to return, the first being a maximum of six players on the ice during practice (plus a limited number of team staff members). Phase 3 was the official start of training camp to prepare players to play hockey again. Phase 4 was the resumption of the 2019–20 season and the start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Hub Cities: Edmonton for the Western Conference and for the Isles and the rest of the Eastern Conference.
The play-in teams were staying at the Hotel X in Toronto, along with the other top-five teams in the Eastern Conference. The Fairmont Royal York will host the rest of the Eastern Conference teams, the Islanders included. Hotel X is a six-minute drive to Scotiabank Arena, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ home, while the Royal York is a two-minute drive there. However, shuttles and underground routes out of view from the public have been established for the players’ safety in both hub cities. In Edmonton, the JW Marriott will host the top-six seeds in the Western Conference while the Sutton Place will host the bottom-six ones.
In an effort to build camaraderie and just have fun, the Islanders started a ping-pong tournament of their own, dubbed “Boys of the Isle” on August 2nd. Their bracket, as pictured below, pitted the likes of J.G. Pageau against Anders Lee, Ilya Sorokin, Ross Johnston, and Semyon Varlamov against each other in Group 1. Group 2 featured Mat Barzal, Devon Toess, Noah Dobson, Michael Dal Colle, and Matt Martin. Meanwhile, Group 3 highlighted Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, Leo Komarov, Cal Clutterbuck, and Andrew Ladd. The final group consisted of Josh “Bails” Bailey, Adam Pelech, Casey Cizikas, Otto Koivula, and Jordan Eberle. The tournament, which ran from August 2nd until August 8th, featured some pretty impressive guys both on the ice and off it. With some help from Eyes on Isles, we were able to decipher the rules set in place by the Isles. Each player in each group had to play every guy in a best of 3 to 11. The top two seeds from each group advanced to the tournament. In tournament play, it was bumped up to a best of three playing to 21. Although Barzy did work on his ping-pong game back in April, it seems that his luck may have run out, as JGP came out victorious.
After completing their Game 7 win over the Flyers, the Islanders flew to Edmonton to begin their Eastern Conference Final matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Game 1 result was not one they had hoped for, getting trounced 8 to 2. Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy scored the Isles’ goals. In preparation for the rest of the series, is there something that the Isles should do as a team to get themselves in the right mindset? Maybe it’s another ping-pong tournament or playing a game of World Cup or Football at Commonwealth Stadium?