Bubble life in Edmonton is the new norm for the Vancouver Canucks and the team’s black aces who are taking on a chase for the Stanley Cup. For Brogan Rafferty, the goal is trying to stay busy and enjoy the moments, while remaining ready in case his number is called.
Utica Comets: We have to know. Is this the strangest travel hockey tournament you’ve ever been a part of?
Brogan Rafferty: Absolutely. For me, it’s a lot different as one of the Black Aces, but it’s literally just a big hockey tournament. When you’re a kid and you’re walking around the rink and see all the teams wearing their jackets and you watch other teams play in their games and stay in the same hotels. It’s basically all that just with the best players in the world. It’s pretty fun being able to watch free NHL hockey games and seeing those guys walk around the bubble who you’ve grown up watching is pretty cool.
UC: You’re from just outside Chicago and you were a teenager when the Blackhawks started their run of a few Stanley Cups. Have you had any chance encounters with some of the guys from those teams you grew up cheering for?
BR: I was in the elevator with (Jonathan) Toews, just me and him. We went up and, just to break the silence, we started chatting a little bit and that was pretty cool.
UC: Were you like “Hold that door!” and the guy holding the door was Jonathan Toews? Or were you in the lobby together and thinking “I don’t want to speak first”?
BR: I think I got in first and he came just around the corner. We were just talking about the air conditioning units in the hotel because they went out the first week we were here. So we were kinda just talking about how hopefully they get fixed soon.
UC: Sounds like you played it cool.
BR: Yeah, I kept my cool (laughing)
UC: What are you doing to stay busy? Playing a few holes in the golf simulator? Going to the basketball court? Playing ping pong?
BR: It’s a little tough to find things to keep you busy. The golf simulator was fun, but you still want some real grass under your feet. Lots of guys are playing video games, but I’m not a gamer so I don’t have any of that going for me. There’s not a whole lot to do besides go to the rink and watch the games or maybe play a few holes on the golf simulator.
UC: What’s the experience been like being the only fans who are at the games?
BR: It’s pretty crazy. The setup is unique with the big screens and the coverings on the seats. The league has done a good job trying to create some sort of atmosphere with the music and fan noise and lights and all that stuff. It is really weird not having the fans in the stands though, we miss them.
UC: Where have you been sitting when you’re actually watching the games?
BR: We are just above the 100 level in a suite right behind one of the nets.
UC: What about meals? Are you just hitting room service over and over?
BR: Breakfast is provided and there’s a lunch that you can grab if you want a small power bowl or something like that. Dinner is on your own. There’s a restaurant in the lobby of the hotel and two more in the lobby of the hotel near the rink and that’s pretty much it for food. I’ve eaten at those plenty of times.
UC: Who has stepped up as the guy with the most style now that there are no dress codes that require suits or anything of the sort?
BR: Definitely not Hughsey (Quinn Hughes). It’s pretty casual. The team gave us some stuff to wear to games so we’re pretty much matching. Walking around on off days and stuff guys will bust out some of their clothes. Petey’s (Elias Petterson) got some pretty flashy clothes and Stech (Troy Stecher) is a good dresser. I like his style.
UC: Have you seen any bad blood spill over from the ice to the hotel or is that something that doesn’t happen?
BR: There’s none of that going on. For the most part you’re with your team and you’re just walking past the other teams. Guys have been settling everything on the ice.
UC: Is it just business all the time every second of every day or are there some chances to be social at all?
BR: After the qualifying rounds, every single series on the west coast was done in four games out of five. So some of the winning teams and losing teams were in the restaurant downstairs at our hotel. So there was a couple hundred hockey players in the same place with nothing to do the next day so that was pretty fun. It was cool to see everyone together and guys who played together and there was some overlap and great stories that were going around.
The Canucks and St. Louis Blues are currently tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven series and skate in game five tomorrow night at 10:30 p.m. inside the Edmonton Bubble.