PHILADELPHIA — The Bruins invoked six feet of separation here Tuesday in the City of Brotherly Love, abiding faithfully to the NHL’s new restrictions around media access to players and coaching staff during the ongoing corona virus scare.
Chris Wagner, who addressed a dozen or so media members gathered some 72 inches or more away in the hallway outside the club’s dressing room, was asked if he had bought fully into the wash-your-hands mantra of public health officials.
“I think most of us always wash our hands anyway,’ ” said Wagner. “Maybe you think about it a little more now.”
Casting his eyes toward his hand-held microphone, Wagner then added, “Like, I’m going to go shower after this.”
Not able to let the comment slide, the sharp-witted Brad Marchand kidded, “First time in a while.”
Lost for words as the media and team members chuckled, Wagner added, “Yeah, but I mean, like … I guess I got nothing else.”
And so it went the first morning after the NHL on Monday imposed new best practices for its teams vis a vis the oft-deadly virus. As expected, the Bruins established the six-foot barrier for all media interactions with players and coaching staff.
The shape of the barrier: A six-foot-long table propped up outside the club’s dressing room at Wells Fargo Center, with media obediently standing at one end while coach Bruce Cassidy, soon after followed by a half-dozen players, stood at the opposite and shared thoughts on a variety of topics over the course of approximately a half-hour.
“Yeah, it’s pretty weird,” noted Wagner, “but I guess it’s safety first.”
“It’s just different,” added Marchand. “Obviously, everyone is trying to take precautions right now. And rightfully so. It can be dangerous. And no one wants to put anyone in harm’s [way] because of this … so we do have to take care of ourselves and make sure we stay clean. … We don’t want this to escalate and jobs get shut down. We want to be able to continue to play for the fans, and hopefully, it kind of stabilizes here.”
Other clubs, particularly on the visitor’s side, abided by similar practices around the league.
Like the Flyers here, the Bruins will take a slightly different approach around game days and practices in Boston. During media sessions at their Brighton practice facility, Cassidy and players are expected to conduct interviews in the conference room, with theater-style seating, just a few steps away the dressing room.
The conference room is where Cassidy always addresses the media. Standard practice has been for media members then to make their way to an open dressing room. Now, as the Flyers did here on Tuesday, players are expected to take turns meeting in the same room as the coach.
“Obviously, we had to follow some protocols,” said team captain Zdeno Chara. “I think at this time, everybody tries to avoid unnecessary contact with, you know, big crowds and areas where you could probably get infected by it. So I think it’s safety first.”
Chara, though an elite athlete and a health-and-fitness devotee, noted that staying fit and cautious won’t necessarily ward off a virus.
“Anybody could be affected by it,” said Chara, the league’s oldest player, about to turn 43 next week. “That’s regardless of whether you are an athlete or a person who goes to a job … I think it’s just the nature of it, that you have to be aware of it. You have to be smart about where you go and keeping yourself clean, wash your hands, be precautionary, I guess.”
During media encounters at the Garden, the Bruins are expected to keep their dressing room closed and conduct all interviews inside the Will McDoough Press Room, which is located on the third floor of TD Garden — just paces away from the club’s expanded, remodeled dressing room.
“It’s more in the back of my mind,” said Marchand, asked about his level of angst around the virus. “It’s obviously not anything any of us want to contract, but there’s also not much we can do. We also have to live our lives day to day and do our jobs — just try to take the precautions to be safe.
“The majority of us are relatively fit in the room,” he added. “but obviously, anything can happen. You don’t want to play with any of these viruses. We are trying to be safe, take the precautions, and at the same time do our jobs and kind of live our lives.”
Their session complete, the two forwards cheerfully made their way along the table, by the small media pack, and held out their hands as a team employee offered each a few squirts of disinfectant gel.
“Soap before hand sanitizer,” reminded a smiling Marchand, known far and wide as the Li’l Ball o’Hate, rubbing his hands clean, “that’s the rules.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.