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Life inside the bubble: NHL teams briefed on amenities

The Lightning on Thursday learned about the activities, restaurants, lounges and other things that will be available to them in Toronto.

TAMPA — The Lightning’s time in Tampa is quickly dwindling down. With its two-week training camp wrapping up this weekend, the team will leave for Toronto via a team charter Sunday, following its last practice on home ice.

Teams learned details about the activities, restaurants, lounges, set-up and other things they can expect in the hub cities during a league-wide meeting on Thursday, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported.

The league expects to have lounge areas available to teams inside the arenas so they can watch other games if they decide to do so, Johnston tweeted on Monday.

Teams staying in Hotel X — including the Lightning, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers and Penguins — will have food catered to them by local eateries, Sportsnet’s Shawn McKenzie reported.

Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde said the chemistry the team has built over the past few years is crucial during any postseason, particularly one played inside a bubble.

“We talk about this (team) being your secondary family,” Lalonde said. “It’s very cliche. It seems those teams that end up winning it in the end find that unity with each other, but we talk about, ‘This is true.‘”

Lalonde attributed the team’s chemistry to its on-ice success the past few seasons.

Related: As training in Tampa winds down, Lightning ready to face another opponent

“Hopefully that foundation will lead us into this bubble, a very unique situation where it truly is us against everyone,” he said.

The team will be under a strict quarantine for the first five days, Lalonde said. After that, the rules loosen so that players can start doing things with one another in the hotel (for the remaining nine days).

“There’s already been some talk around the coaches’ office,” Lalonde said. “Squash, pickleball, there’s been some banter already of who is going to be king of what. We’re looking forward to it.”

Hotel X has multiple amenities available to players, including eight squash courts and four indoor tennis courts — which Lalonde joked the coaching staff would put to good use.

Related: Lightning’s wild cards given chance to step up in ‘what-if’ scenarios

Assistant Jeff Halpern is the current tennis title holder among the group, Lalonde said. The pickleball title is up for grabs, but Lalonde is expecting to make a successful run at it.

Head coach Jon Cooper recently started playing pickleball and is looking forward to challenging Lalonde. Board games also are on the table.

BMO Field — home to Toronto’s MLS and CFL teams and a 5-minute walk from the hotel — “will be transformed into an outdoor park of sorts for players with BBQs and green space to use for workouts or relaxing,” Sportsnet’s Johnston reported.

Joked Lalonde, “Someone in the office just described it as a giant, long-time hockey frat party for 2-1/2 months. The excitement of this tournament and how it’s laying out is getting extremely, extremely exciting. I’m getting butterflies just thinking about it.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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