Hub city grind: NHL bubble life means busy days, unique challenges for workers

For some workers inside the NHL bubble, life is filled with busy days and hectic schedules.

Michael Carroll has worked some long days standing behind a camera during his career of more than 30 years in the television business, but working inside the NHL’s bubble for 42 days straight was a first. 

“There were quite a few days of three games a day,” said Carroll, who left the bubble on Saturday after working 63 games. 

“I noticed my calves and muscles were getting pretty tight,” he said.

Carroll is now enjoying some much-deserved down time with his family near Kamloops. 

Craig Boa gives NBC sportscaster Kenny Albert a haircut inside Rogers Place. (Submitted by Craig Boa)

Crews were cut down over the weekend now that there’s only one playoff game being played per day. 

Carroll, who has shot countless NHL games, said shooting in an empty arena took some getting used to. 

‘Everyone will handle it a little differently’ 

“It was quite cold in the arena, I mean I noticed it was cold in a regular game with people but this stayed cold the whole time, there’s no people in there,” he said.  

“In the one area behind the net there was air coming down. I was wearing a tuque and a neck warmer and two to three jackets.”

While the long hours and frigid temperatures was a physical test, being away from loved ones was equally challenging, he said. 

“Everyone will handle it a little differently depending on what you’re used to,” said Carroll, who worked several Olympics. “I’m used to being away on some longer event, you know I thought about my wife and how she was doing, how she was handling it.” 

Michael Carroll gets bundled up to shoot the NHL playoffs inside Rogers Place. (Submitted by Michael Carroll )

Carroll did get a chance to stay connected with his wife through FaceTime and meeting from a distance when she came to the hotel. 

While Carroll didn’t get to leave the bubble while he was working, others do. 

Craig Boa is one of them. 

The hairdresser owns Weekly Trim True, located in the Mercer Warehouse building across the street from Rogers Place. He was chosen by the NHL two weeks ago to cut hair for people inside the bubble. 

“The NHL runs a pretty tight game about people going into the bubble and infiltrating,” said Boa, who said he went through a thorough vetting process before being selected.

‘Everyone’s hair was getting out of control’

Boa said his friend Max Kerman, lead singer of the Arkells, just happened to be having a conversation with someone inside the bubble when the topic of haircuts came up.

“He knows … someone that’s with the NHL in the western bubble. They were talking about how everyone’s hair was getting out of control. Max is like, ‘I know a guy in Edmonton.'”

Before Boa knew it, he was cutting hair of NHL players inside Rogers Place.

He gets tested and has his temperature checked each time he enters, and says the bubble experience has been unique.  

“My mom wouldn’t even recognize me — full hazmat suit, mask, shield, gloves, surgical gown, sanitizer. It’s pretty serious in there for sure,” he added. “I’ve been doing this for 12,13 years. I’ve never cut in a hazmat suit with gloves on, but a couple cuts in and you get the hang of it.”

Boa said the NHL is subsidizing the haircuts and he charges around $50 for each client. 

“First day I showed up at 8 [a.m.] at my station and I was there cutting there till 8 p.m.,” added Boa who credits the NHL for getting him in there quickly and then providing him with support to handle the demand.

“Everyone was super appreciative. They were happy to see me, happy that I took the time to go in there.” 

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