Still in a good place

Hawks aren’t con­cerned about home-ice dis­ad­van­tage at oil­ers’ arena

Chicago Sun-Times - - BLACKHAWKS BEAT - BY BEN POPE BPOPE@SUN­TIMES.COM @BENPOPECST

The NHL can’t catch a break in 2020. In case a global pan­demic and the con­sol­i­da­tion of 24 NHL teams into two hub ci­ties weren’t enough, tor­ren­tial rains in Edmonton flooded parts of Rogers Place on Thurs­day.

“Some­times you al­most have to step back and laugh a lit­tle bit,” Pa­trick Kane said af­ter Black­hawks prac­tice Fri­day. “Some­one doesn’t want this to hap­pen.”

For­tu­nately, un­like with the coro­n­avirus, it seems the flood­ing prob­lem will be re­solved quickly.

Rogers Place of­fi­cials re­ported Fri­day that the dam­age was re­stricted to con­course ar­eas and that cleanup has be­gun.

“We do not fore­see any sig­nif­i­cant de­lays or bar­ri­ers to ei­ther Oil­ers train­ing camp or prepa­ra­tions [and] ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to our host­ing as [an] NHL hub city,” arena of­fi­cials said on Twit­ter.

That’s good news for the Hawks, Oil­ers and the rest of the Western Con­fer­ence in that their play­off se­ries, sched­uled to be­gin Aug. 1, will be un­af­fected by this lat­est nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

But it also means the Hawks still will have to play their best-of-five se­ries in Edmonton af­ter all, on a rink the Oil­ers know very well.

There are a few small but un­mis­tak­able ad­van­tages the Oil­ers will en­joy. They’ll know how bouncy the boards and glass are and how the sum­mer ice con­di­tions are. They’ll have a sense of com­fort in an arena they’ve been in hun­dreds of times.

On the other hand, the big­gest home-ice ad­van­tages in a nor­mal reg­u­lar-sea­son game won’t be at their dis­posal.

There will be no fans in the build­ing. And the of­fi­cial “home team” in each game will ro­tate as nor­mal, mean­ing the Oil­ers won’t get to use the more spa­cious home locker room and play matchups with their line changes any more fre­quently than usual.

Thus, the Hawks don’t seem very con­cerned about their home-ice dis­ad­van­tage.

“Ob­vi­ously, it’s their rink, so they’ll be com­fort­able there, [but] they don’t have the crowd,” coach Jeremy Col­li­ton said. “For the most part, it’s a pretty even play­ing field. It’s more so how they play and the chal­lenges that presents. They got some pretty good play­ers.”

“I don’t know if it gives them any ad­van­tage,” Dun­can Keith said. “They’re in their home arena, but at the end of the day, the fans aren’t there . . . I’d like to think it’s [go­ing to] be pretty even.”

Kirby Dach, who hails from an Edmonton sub­urb, was the only Hawks player to ac­knowl­edge any sort of dis­ad­van­tage in in­ter­views this week.

“Maybe a lit­tle bit,” Dach said. “Just them get­ting to prac­tice in that rink time and time again and know­ing how the boards play comes into fac­tor. But . . . there’s not a lot of fans that are go­ing to be there, so the noise won’t be there. For us, that’s a good thing. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are go­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence [the] play­offs for the first time, and that home crowd noise can re­ally play a fac­tor.”

That si­lence will make for an ex­ceed­ingly strange first-time ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery player in­volved.

And while it won’t pro­vide ei­ther side an ad­van­tage, it’s the one thing about the hub ex­pe­ri­ence in Edmonton that the Hawks seem most in­trigued about.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve played hockey with­out fans in the build­ing. You’d have to go back to mi­nor hockey, where it’s ba­si­cally your par­ents up there,” Keith said. “It’s some­thing that we all have to deal with.”

NOTE: Hawks de­fense­men Con­nor Mur­phy and Olli Maatta missed prac­tice Fri­day, with coach Jeremy Col­li­ton say­ing they were “un­fit to play” — the NHL’s new univer­sal term. With Calvin de Haan still at­tend­ing to a fam­ily emer­gency, the Hawks are un­der­manned on de­fense. ✶

AP

Goalie Collin Delia keeps a close eye on Pa­trick Kane dur­ing prac­tice Mon­day at Fifth Third Arena.

AP

De­spite flood­ing Thurs­day night, Rogers Place still is ex­pected to host Western Con­fer­ence play­off games.

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