On Friday afternoon, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson spoke to the media on a Zoom call following Group Blue’s practice on the fourth day of training camp in Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan. The Capitals are set to play their exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday, July 29 in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On adjusting to the health and safety protocols, Carlson said, “I don’t think it’s difficult at all.” He appreciates how everyone is doing their part and is very good of wearing masks. They’re “happy to be in” and still have a “good time and get work done.”
The Capitals will be staying at the Hotel X, along with the other top-five teams in the Eastern Conference. “At the end of the day, we’re going to the same rink,” the 30-year old defenseman said about having his team’s closest rivals in one place. He added it will be “something we haven’t seen before”, but noted they are “all professionals” and “grateful” to be in that bubble and play hockey. Carlson says to expect “fast and wild” hockey for the return.
The top four teams in each conference will play for First Round seeding during the round-robin. Carlson said “everything matters” and “seeding means a lot”. The Capitals are looking to win every game, which startes against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, August 3.
Prior to the league’s pause, the Capitals were struggling, especially in defensive areas. Carlson had an optimistic outlook on the four month stoppage saying, “The reset probably wasn’t the worst thing in the world for our team.” It gave them a chance to start fresh and take a closer look at “systemic changes and emphasis on the game play”.
On July 1, the NHL’s proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) extension included a return to Olympics participation covering both 2022 in Beijing, China, and 2026 in Milan, Italy. This is great news for NHL players who wish to partake in the Olympics playing for their country if the league, International Olympic Committee (IOC), and International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) approve of the proposal.
Although nothing has been finalized yet, Carlson called the Olympics the “pinnacle of sports” and explained how important it is to grow the game hockey for the “biggest thing in all sports”. The defenseman played for the United States in the 2014 Winter Olmpics in Sochi, Russia.
By Della Young