With the city of Toronto basically confirmed as one of the two hub cities chosen for Phase 4 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan, the New York Islanders might have a slight advantage in their favor.
The team has six players who either are from Toronto or come from around the area.
Casey Cizikas and Adam Pelech were born in Toronto and usually go back in the offseason for training. Cizikas — after the season was postponed back in early March — has spent most of his time quarantining in Markham — just outside of Toronto — with his wife Kristy and their son Jack. Pelech had stayed back on Long Island and was rehabbing from an Achilles injury.
Josh Bailey is from nearby Bowmanville, while Cal Clutterbuck (Welland) and Michael Dal Colle (Woodbridge) aren’t far from the hub city.
Now it’s true that everyone will be on an even playing field as many have pointed out once the teams finally do get to their assigned hub cities and actually begin to play games. But when players go back as visitors to play in or near their hometown, they usually play harder. Even without fans, the names mentioned above should feel right at home when the games do get played.
There won’t be anything near the home-ice advantage the Isles would have been had with playing at Nassau Coliseum if and when they take the ice against the Florida Panthers in the qualifying round, but it doesn’t mean they can’t try to emulate that same mentality.
Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena has the same feel as the Coliseum, although it’s the home of the Maple Leafs. The Stanley Cup banners hanging, all the legendary numbers retired, just the entire aura and atmosphere that comes with playing on hockey’s biggest stage should be enough to get a team revving to go.
It does help that other than having a few Ontario boys on the squad that many of the Isles have played tournaments and other events in their careers in Toronto.
Full team training camps are set to begin sometime in the next two weeks and, if all goes according to plan, the Islanders will make their way to Toronto by the 25th. When they do touch down in The Six, they should feel right at home as they ready themselves for a shot at a Stanley Cup.