The quiet in the building as compared to the usual roars of the crowd come playoff time will take some getting used to.
“It’s going to be different,” Islanders forward Derick Brassard said on Thursday, an off day for the team in Toronto. “I think this game was really important yesterday to just kind of get a feel for everything. It’s different out there. I’m not going to lie.”
The Islanders beat the Rangers, 2-1, on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena in their lone tuneup exhibition before their best-of-five qualifying series against the Panthers opens on Saturday afternoon.
All NHL games in this restart after the season was paused on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic are being played with limited personnel — and no fans or even owners — in the building. Taped crowd noise is blended into the TV broadcasts but the players hear none of that. The 24 participating teams are all sequestered in a quarantined arena/practice rink/hotel bubble in either Toronto or Edmonton.
“Honestly, the most difficult thing to get accustomed to is the lack of fans and the lack of noise in the arena,” defenseman Adam Pelech said. “It was definitely a strange situation on the ice and something we’ll have to continue to adjust to as the playoffs go on.”
The Islanders and Rangers stood side by side during the U.S. and Canadian anthems in a show of solidarity against social injustice, a common sight now through the NHL.
“I don’t think we’ve discussed what the plan will be with the Panthers going forward,” Pelech said. “Even though us and the Rangers are big-time rivals, there’s mutual respect there and there’s a realization of what’s going on in the world. It was nice to stand side by side with them.”