Social media often offers only glimpses of the story, sometimes leaving only the imagination to fill in the blanks.
We do know, based on a handful of pictures posted on various Instagram accounts in recent days, that Bruins David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase have been practicing, albeit not with the Bruins. That alone is in violation of the league’s elaborate return to play conditions.
Their workouts, in the wake of returning from their homes in the Czech Republic, have been with a collection of young non-NHLers, including amateurs and minor pros, at the Valley Forum in Malden. Per league guidelines, NHL players are not permitted to skate in Phase 2 or Phase 3 of the RTP protocols with anyone other than fellow team members.
Meanwhile, coach Bruce Cassidy, who assured the media midweek that the right wingers would join the club formally Thursday morning for their first workouts, by Friday offered little detail as to when the two vital offensive contributors would make their camp debut.
We also know, according to what agent J.P. Barry first told The Athletic later on Friday, that Pastrnak has been placed under quarantine because he came in contact with someone COVID-19-positive. Barry later in the day confirmed the same here, after the Globe asked if he would comment about Pastrnak participating in the non-team-related practices.
“All I have,” Barry wrote via e-mail, “is that he tested negative and must quarantine due to proximity of someone who tested positive.”
Keep in mind, folks, the Bruins leave for the NHL bubble in Toronto in one week, a giant step in the league returning to game action for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced doors to close on March 12.
Right now, and perhaps right up to the time the team charter goes wheels-up next Sunday, there is no telling how well prepared Boston’s first- and second-line right wingers will be for what could be a 70-day haul to win the Stanley Cup. There is no telling at the moment if either of them will be free of COVID concerns or entanglements and be eligible for the flight.
For the record, the Globe on Friday sought comment from team president Cam Neely and GM Don Sweeney. Both chose not to address what Pastrnak and Kase had been up to of late and whether the Malden skating sessions fit within the league’s detailed Phase 2 and 3 protocols.
Bill Daly, the NHL deputy commissioner, also wrote back via e-mail that the league would have no comment.
A voicemail message left at Valley Forum on Friday seeking comment about the recent practices went unreturned.
That’s a whole lot of silence, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s also quite telling.
Participating in the Malden workouts doesn’t look good on Pastrnak and Kase. They likely were trying to give themselves a running start into the RTP camp and either ignored the Phase 3 protocols or, more likely, weren’t fully aware of the exacting details or figured they could duck under the radar with no one the wiser.
There is no ducking under the radar now in the smartphone camera era. Everyone is wiser, and often looking for attention.
In one of the pictures, Kase and Pastrnak are lined up for a group photo on the ice with nine other players, everyone standing shoulder to shoulder. What young kid wouldn’t want to hit Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platforms with a picture of their wicked cool day on the ice with two Bruins, one of whom tied Alex Ovechkin this season for the league lead in goals?
One of the pictures, by the way, was posted Monday and stayed on Instagram as late as Thursday evening. By Friday morning, prior to the Globe asking Cassidy during a Zoom session what he thought of his players’ actions, the photo had been deleted. It showed the college-bound player standing between the two Bruins, the three of them shoulder to shoulder. Everyone was smiling.
“Best of luck to these boys,” wrote the player, “and the rest of the @nhlbruins in the coming months.”
The player had tagged Pastrnak with the photo, but there was no sign online that the 24-year-old superstar ever posted it on his account.
Making it all the harder to discern is the lingo pertaining to missing, injured or ailing players the league established before camps opened last Monday. The NHL does not want to be transparent, for reasons its lawyers no doubt have enumerated, so teams only report that players are “unfit to participate” or “unable to practice.”
What does any of that tell us? Nothing. Which is exactly the point.
It’s called selective honesty. It’s also potentially dangerous. Headed into the weekend, COVID-19 had claimed more than 140,000 lives in the United States. There is no discernible national plan for how to deal with it. Amid all that, the NHL next Sunday hopes to transport 18 US-based teams to its two hub camps in Canada — some 900 employees in total — and pull off the comeback of all comebacks.
Good luck, Canada. If things begin to go sideways up there, expect the incessant drone of no comments, or the rote, risible responses of “unfit to participate” and/or “unable to practice.” All in the spirit of handing one team a big silvery mug at the end for all the trouble.
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
Rathbone could be first of many
Jack Rathbone put up 31 points in his 28 games as a sophomore defenseman for Harvard this past season, and the Crimson had every reason to be excited about him returning to campus in the fall.
All of that joy was swept away this past week when Rathbone, 21, opted to turn pro with Vancouver, the club that drafted him 95th overall in 2017. No telling if he sticks in Vancouver, but he certainly won’t be hanging around the Square anymore.
Don’t be surprised if more Division 1 programs suffer a talent drain in the coming weeks, with more schools and leagues undoubtedly delaying starts or potentially canceling seasons outright because of the pandemic.
It’s hard enough for teenagers and young twentysomethings to remain patient and delay signing bonuses and the start of their career paths to fame and fortune. Now a substantial number of them, if leagues pull the plug for 2020-21, are left to wonder how their games will develop if they are forced to miss a season.
“Everyone wants this to be black or white,” said longtime agent Matt Keator, who represents the likes of Zdeno Chara and Chris Kreider. “But it’s not. It’s gray and grayer and it could be that way for a while. People are panicking. Everyone wants answers — the kids, parents, college coaches, NHL GMs. It might be we get no answers until a COVID vaccine is developed.”
Rathbone, had he opted to remain at Harvard, could have declared free agency in the summer of 2022. The new CBA, despite rampant speculation, did not eliminate the language that allows college players who remain in school for four seasons to sign with the team of their choice.
But Rathbone opted to take GM Jim Benning’s offer and start the chase now, albeit competing for a spot on a very solid Canucks backline. Won’t be easy. But nothing in the industry looks like it will be easy for a while.
Burke penning a hockey tell-all
Yet to get gloves on a copy, but Brian Burke’s upcoming tome: “Burke’s Law: A Life in Hockey,” promises to be a truculent page-turner.
The onetime Providence College forward, a Friar during Lou Lamoriello’s coaching days there, turned pro out of PC in 1977 and played one season with the AHL Maine Mariners prior to entering Harvard Law.
It was Lamoriello more than 40 years ago who insisted that Burke go the law school route and eschew a career in the minor pros.
“He handed me the Harvard application and told me to fill it out,” recalled Burke, who turned 65 last month. “I said something like, ‘Thanks, Lou, I’ll give it some thought.‘ Then he told me, ‘This is not an option. Fill it out.’ ”
Out of Harvard Law in 1981, Burke became a player agent, with Harvard’s Mark Fusco (Class of ’83) among his first clients. He went on to manage four NHL clubs (Hartford, Vancouver, Anaheim, and Toronto), including a Cup win with the Ducks, and had a lengthy stay in the NHL front office as Gary Bettman’s director of discipline.
Most recently, Burke had nearly a five-year tour with the Flames as their president of hockey operations, until the spring of 2018. These days, he’s back in Toronto as an on-air hockey analyst for Sportsnet, developing a brand built on pugnacity and white collar (no tie) belligerence.
The release date on the book, published by Viking, is Oct. 13.
Final test for four Bruins
Of current NHLers, star Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the only two players to have appeared in as many as four Cup Final rounds.
If the Bruins come out of the East again — for their first back-to-back trips since losses in the 1977 and ’78 Finals — Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara would pull even at four with Crosby and Malkin.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, only 11 other current NHLers have made it to the Final three times:
Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Arizona (all with the Blackhawks); Justin Williams, Carolina (Hurricanes once, Kings twice); Brent Seabrook, Chicago; Duncan Keith, Chicago; Jonathan Toews, Chicago; Patrick Kane, Chicago; Valtteri Filppula, Detroit (Red Wings twice, Lightning once); Jeff Carter, Los Angeles (Flyers twice, Kings once); Kris Letang, Pittsburgh; Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas (Penguins twice, Golden Knights once); Carl Hagelin, Washington (Penguins twice, Capitals once).
Note: Fleury is the only current netminder with three Cup Final appearances. Tuukka Rask was with the Bruins in the 2011, ’13 and ’19 Finals, but he never entered a game in ’11 vs. Vancouver, the Bruins riding Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas all the way to the Cup.
Rask on Friday was named a Vezina finalist, along with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (ex- of UMass Lowell) and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. Rask bagged the Vezina in 2014.
In a late-afternoon call Thursday with his Board of Governors, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear to one and all that sneaking out of the bubbles in Edmonton or Toronto will not be tolerated. Leave the bubble, sure, and pack up and go home. The league is well aware the entire return to play enterprise will live/die on very narrow margins, which will demand that team personnel (maximum number: 50) must enter the bubbles with the understanding they will be forced to stay undercover for the full 70 days (beginning next Sunday afternoon). The same for all on-ice officials and other league personnel … The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, closed since the start of March, finally reopened for business on Wednesday with some self-imposed limitations. A 20 percent reduction in capacity means no more than 400 visitors can be in the Hall at one time. Patrons receive free masks and gloves upon entry. It’s OK to pose for a picture next to the Stanley Cup, but unlike days of old, no one is allowed to touch it — not even if wearing gloves … League officials have yet to reveal how modified or enhanced TV broadcasts will be when games start being beamed out of Edmonton on Toronto for the first time on Aug. 1 (the Bruins don’t suit up in the round-robin until Aug. 2). “You’ll just have to watch,” Bettman said last Saturday in the Zoom news conference following the announcement that owners and players ratified the new CBA. The biggest change is expected to be in the enhanced camera angles, networks able to establish unique positions around the building now that fans won’t be allowed through the doors … Bergeron, when asked last Monday how he expected the club’s players to comport themselves with camps finally back open: “Professionalism is going to be huge. We need to rely on everyone for this thing to happen and to work — right now in Phase 3 you are allowed to go home. We are not going to babysit you on your whereabouts and all that. It’s about trusting one another, making sure that everyone is doing the right thing and is committed for this thing to work and go forward. I think that is the most important thing, to be professionals about it, be smart and use common sense.” Shorthand: Other than trips to Warrior Arena in Brighton, stay home, stay safe … Variety reported Friday that the oft-glib Jeremy Roenick is suing NBC Sports, claiming the network discriminated against him as a heterosexual man, and also because of his open support of President Trump in 2016. The network tossed JR from its hockey broadcasts in February of this year because of lurid musings about his wife, as well as former NESN host Kathryn Tappen, during a podcast … Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina last year. There hasn’t been a back-to-back Vezina winner since the late 1970s, when Ken Dryden put his name on it four consecutive times with the Canadiens (1976-79). He shared three of those with Michel “Bunny” Larocque, in the days when the trophy automatically went to the player, or tandem, who finished the season the lowest goals-against mark … There won’t be any trades allowed until after the Stanley Cup is awarded (latest date possible: Oct. 4) in the days leading up to the draft in mid- or late-October. That didn’t stop the rumor mill from churning this past week in Vancouver, a local radio station speculating the Canucks could be looking to move third-year winger Brock Boeser. He has two years remaining on a deal with a $5.875 million cap hit. GM Jim Benning, Peter Chiarelli’s former lieutenant in Boston, quickly shot it down as baseless speculation. With the cap to remain flat for a couple of seasons at $81.5 million, look for more rumors to pop up in the months ahead, with clubs challenged to keep pricier talent on the payrolls … Headed into next season, Marchand and Bergeron are the only Bruins with 100 percent trade protection in their contracts. GM Don Sweeney has vastly greater dealing powers than when he took over the job prior in the weeks leading to the 2015 draft. The most obvious trade target in the postseason will be Krejci, with one season left on his deal and a cap hit of $7.25 million. Sweeney has the elbow room to trade him to a list of 15 teams named on Krejci’s approval list.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.