TAMPA — Time spent in last postseason’s Canadian bubble may serve the Lightning well in the Stanley Cup final this year.
Bill Daly, the league’s deputy commissioner and chief legal officer, said Monday that in order for teams to travel back and forth across the United States-Canada border, the league needed to negotiate “a comprehensive health and safety protocol” with the Canadian government.
“It’s very similar to the (coronavirus) protocols that we started the season with in all of our markets,” Daly said. “But obviously markets like Tampa, and Florida and Las Vegas and in Texas, there’s been some relaxation of those protocols over time. And while it’s familiar on some levels, it’s distantly familiar to Tampa.”
In May, the Lightning benefitted from relaxed protocols with at least 85 percent of the team’s travel party fully vaccinated. It was a mark of returning to some normalcy with players allowed to venture outside of their hotels on the road, practice facilities and arenas.
On Monday, the Lightning expanded fan capacity from 14,800 to 16,300. Each postseason round, Tampa Bay has increased attendance. Montreal, meanwhile, is hosting 3,500 fans at the Bell Centre.
The Lightning will play in Montreal for Games 3 and 4, possibly Game 6 if needed.
“The list (of protocols) is way too long to go over right now,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s definitely, we’ve gone back to what it was early in the year. Nothing we haven’t seen before, though. It’s no big deal. We’ve gone through this.”
Daly said that the primary differences in the protocols for the Cup final are in a stricter approach to quarantine so that the players stay in their hotels or homes and the teams’ respective arenas — much like last year when the Lightning spent the entirety of the playoffs in Toronto and Edmonton.
“(The players won’t) do any socializing in between (games),” Daly said. “Don’t do any socializing and the mask use (will be enforced).”
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