• Sam Obermyer

Bubble Brings Road Trip Memories for Capitals

Hotels are nothing new for professional hockey players. They spend half the season on the road traveling from city to city.

But everyone coming to one city and teams staying in the same hotel? That’s not something the NHL has done before. Although it’s not a totally foreign concept..

International tournaments like the Olympics, World Cup and the world championships all have teams come together in one or two places. But what the NHL’s two bubble cities seem to most bring to mind for Capitals players is the minor hockey tournament.

Pack up the car, don’t forget your baby sister and convoy along with the rest of your teammates down a frigid January highway.

“I grew up in Minnesota and we'd always get to do one out of town tournament a year,” said Washington Capitals forward Travis Boyd. “One tournament where you drive somewhere in Minnesota and spend the weekend in a hotel. That was the coolest weekend of the year being able to get in a hotel with all your teammates. You'd always play knee hockey and always get together in rooms and everything like that.”

Boyd’s teammate Nic Dowd grew up in Huntsville, Alabama so the road trips came with the chance to experience some more classic hockey weather.

“Anytime we got to go up north to Canada or places that were cold in the winter, those memories really stick out in my mind,” Dowd said. “Our whole crew got to play boot hockey on a frozen pool, which was like completely new to us because we never played outside in Huntsville. That was something I'll always remember.”

Capitals head coach Todd Reirden smiled when reminiscing about youth hockey road trips he took as both a player and a hockey parent.

“Those were great memories of hockey growing up and for sure (going to the bubble in Toronto) does feel similar to that,” Reirden said. “The tough part is always making sure you're bringing along the rest of your family on the trip. My sister at the time had had some tough bounces having to come on those long trips but it ended up being a great experience for my family and certainly this will be a once in a lifetime, let's hope, occasion that happens here with bubble hockey.”

While this road trip may bring up memories from those childhood road trips it’s not going to be exactly the same.

“This one might be a little weird because you don't want to get off on the wrong floor because you might be bumping into somebody on Pittsburgh,” Boyd said.

“We're not gonna be breaking the mini sticks out in the hallways,” Dowd added. “At least I don't think so.”

But that doesn’t mean the Capitals aren’t going to have some fun.

“There's going to be a lot of video games. Even though a lot of us have kids, we're still, you know, kids at heart. So there'll be a lot of video games. Typically, we're a big Mario Kart team. So you kind of get some competition, some fun with that. We definitely have our card players. (Braden Holtby) plays the guitar,” said Capitals forward T.J. Oshie.

“If we could all get a room and Holts jams on the guitar and we all chat and hang out. It’s very easy for us to entertain each other and hang out and have fun. Just being together I think is going to be important during this playoffs stretch here after a four month break from seeing each other.”

Holtby said he brings his guitar on the road with him every time and he’s happy to play if it’s something his teammates enjoy.

“It's a travel guitar.I don't think it's about me playing, it's whether they like listening or not.”

The Capitals aren't the only team to have noticed the similarities between this tournament and the ones that happen every weekend each winter across North America.

“When you go to the practice rink and you see all the buses and different teams, it feels like you are back to your minor hockey days where you are in a hockey tournament,” said Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien. “Families, teams and parents were at the hotels and everybody would end up going to the rink. To a certain extent that brings you back to your younger days.”

For Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau it even brought back memories traveling to the city that is now the western hub.

“I was here in Edmonton playing in the Brick tournament. That was a pretty fun one to be a part of, you got the mall and all the rides. Definitely brings back memories of just being in a youth hockey tournament with your pals in the hotel.”

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