The puzzle that is the NHL’s Return To Play plan seems to be coming together. There’s ice in Bridgestone Arena, and the Nashville Predators are back in town.
Well, the puzzle is sort of coming together. Let’s just say the corners have been found and the border completed. It’s time to fill in the rest of the pieces, and the Nashville Predators are taking steps towards that goal.
Seeing the Nashville Predators actually return to game action is something that still seems so far away. The last time they played a game, which was a win over the Montreal Canadiens, seems like a year ago.
The next closest thing to actual games is up in the coming days with players getting together for training camp, with games hopefully getting started in less than a month from now if everything goes according to plan for the NHL.
June saw the implementation of Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return To Play plan, which meant that the teams could voluntarily skate in groups of 6 or less. That number was eventually raised to include 12 players.
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We then saw the announcement per NHL.com that training camps may begin on July 10 if medical and safety conditions allow. The excitement started to build.
Then a Facebook Live interview with Roman Josi revealed that about ten Predators remained in Nashville and that they have been getting ice time at an undisclosed location.
Josi also confirmed that the players who were not in the states had been holding individual workouts.
June 24 saw the Predators’ social media team showing us a beautiful sheet of ice in Bridgestone. They had previously released a short clip showing workers removing the flooring in Bridgestone to reveal the rink.
Around the same time that the ice was being put down, we started to see social media posts about Predators players returning to Nashville. This was good news because the team was spread out all over the globe.
On the Predators’ Official Podcast, Dan Hamhuis confirmed that he came back to Nashville a little early for training camp and that his family stayed in Canada. Hamhuis is a free agent at the end of this season. This may be his final run with the Predators.
More information came out as Pekka Rinne, Juuse Saros, and Mikael Granlund, along with some other players, rented a jet to get back to the states from Finland. Our friend Sara Weathers tweeted this awesome pic of Rinne arriving at the airport.
Back At Bridgestone Arena
On July 1, we heard via The Athletic’s Adam Vingan that Predators players returned to Bridgestone Arena to skate for the first time since the Return To Play plan was announced.
In an interview with 104.5 The Zone’s 3HL, Matt Duchene confirmed that he arrived in Nashville on June 28. Duchene went on to say that it was great to get back to Bridgestone and to skate with the rest of the guys. Duchene will be looking to make his mark when play resumes.
Viktor Arvidsson is also apparently ready to get back to work as well. The Predators tweeted this photo from Arvidsson’s Instagram account. We are hopeful that this time off has helped Arvidsson get ready for the playoffs and shake off his troubled season.
Training Camp will be the next Return To Play milestone. The camp is set to start on July 10. This is when the real work will begin.
Ever since the NHL announced that the playoffs would be held in two “hub” cities, there has been lots of speculation about which cities will be chosen. Nashville even threw its hat in the ring.
Once training camp has been completed, the Predators will then head to their assigned hub city. It appears that the Predators will be heading to Canada for the playoffs.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the NHL will name Edmonton and Toronto as the two cities that will host the playoffs.
It is also rumored that the Western Conference teams will play in Edmonton and the Eastern Conference in Toronto. This seems a little unfair to all of the teams who aren’t named “Oilers” or “Mapleleafs,” but that is a whole other topic.
TSN’s McKenzie also announced on July 2 that Edmonton will not only be a hub city but that they will host the Stanley Cup Finals as well.
This news is tentative as the NHL hasn’t released an official statement yet. This news could also change if any health or medical complications arise in these two cities.
As the excitement continues to build, you can’t help but get a feeling that all of this is too good to be true. We can talk about these crazy playoffs all we want, but at the end of the day, we genuinely don’t know if they will happen, yet we remain optimistic.
If everything goes smoothly and this multi-faceted plan can come to fruition, you can guarantee that I will be parked in front of the television for a long time, rooting on the Predators as they make a historic run for the Stanley Cup.