MONTREAL – Nights are short when there are traveling days. A few hours of sleep, and here we are again for another city.
Screening test, baggage preparation, departure from the hotel at 10 a.m., take-off from Tampa at 11:45 a.m. and landing in Montreal at 2:30 p.m. And you know as well as I do that when you leave the airport, the day is often far from over.
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What struck me the most on Thursday morning, seeing the four buses lined up in front of the hotel, was the scale the group has gained since we left Montreal on Saturday. From around fifty people, we have grown to more than a hundred.
In the whirlwind of the first two games, I didn’t realize that a large number of American NHL employees had joined us in Florida. It’s big, the NHL. That’s big, a Stanley Cup Final.
We had to stick together a little more – as the Montreal Canadiens will have to do for Game 3 on Friday – aboard the Air Canada Airbus 320 chartered. No more luxury in the first-class leather seats of the 60-seat Texas Rangers plane!
I was in the middle seat in my row, between my colleagues at NHL.com, Nick Cotsonika and Shawn Roarke. Two chic, always good company guys that I saw in Tampa for the first time since March 2020. Nick and Shawn were already planning to order their first meal in town at a famous smoked meat and poutine restaurant.
For me it’s a homecoming for the next five days! Quebecers in the bubble are allowed to return home.
For the series against the Vegas Golden Knights, I stayed at the hotel in Montreal since I was the only employee of the NHL in Montreal. After the series ended, on Midsummer Night, I was allowed to go home. For the Final, we graciously accepted my request to enjoy the same privilege as the employees of the broadcasters – TVA Sports and the radio stations 98.5 and TSN 690.
You see me very pleased. The only condition is to respect the same rules as in the bubble. Essentially, it consists of staying at home, respecting physical distancing with our loved ones and going to undergo tests every day at the hotel where “the bubbly” lodges.
It is with great pleasure that I will do all of this, even if it means that I have to take my pain patiently before hugging my new granddaughter Noélie in my arms.
Closer to me, it will be hard to stay distant with « bride-to-be », but as she felt quite simply incapable (!), She took to the chase for the long weekend. All I asked was to have a few white Charlevoix in the fridge and baskets of strawberries on the counter. So I will be alone, as in Las Vegas and Tampa, but in my business and my bed. Between the two games, I will be able to watch the cucumbers and tomatoes grow in my garden.
All kidding aside, the marathon runner in me is starting to run out of steam. I have the feeling of having reached kilometer 34 of the event, with the wall waiting in the bend.
I’ve been telling you about my adventures in this blog since June 13, but I’ve been carrying my bundle around since the day before the first game of the Canadiens playoffs, on May 20. I stopped counting the days, but it hasn’t stopped much since then. I know, I will not make any health professional here cry who has worked hard to heal the planet for almost 16 months. I grab the puck in a hurry to tell you the immense respect I have for what you’ve done and what you’re still doing. You save lives, I give you hockey scores.
I did long covers for nearly a month at the Olympics or the Stanley Cup playoffs, but never an ultra marathon like this.
My experience as a runner helps me a lot to bring back the short-term goals, in that time.
In marathons, when the going gets tough, I pull my cap down and don’t look far ahead. It’s one light fixture or one telephone pole at a time. This week in Tampa, I pulled the cap down. I can’t wait to cross the finish line.