Three days after being eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Vegas Golden Knights, Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton and general manager Stan Bowman were able to reflect on what it was like inside the bubble in Edmonton now that they're out of it.
From the sound of things, it wasn't like the summer camp with mingling NHL stars we thought it was.
Related: Inside look at what 'bubble life' is like for the Blackhawks in Edmonton
"What I'll say is, it's hard when you're in that type of environment because we talked about it... It's almost like you're in prison. You have this small little area to get your break, fresh air, but other than that you're indoors 24/7," Bowman said Friday on a Zoom call with media. "We don't live our lives that way. Even though (since) the pandemic hit and everyone's been home, you can still leave your house, walk outside, get fresh air. It's just the mental toll that you're kind of trapped, can't go anywhere. Over time, that does get to you.
"I think we handled it well, I don't know if it had an impact on us. The league did a good job so it's not a complaint. It's just an observation. It can be tough mentally because there's no variety, no ability to get away, do something different. It's the same thing weeks on end.
"Games were a nice diversion. It was great to witness, firsthand, all these playoff games. You're never able to see other series live, so I tried to take advantage of that. I was there watching them, seeing players, that helped to pass the time. There'll be fewer teams left, fewer games, it's going to be a challenge. But as you advance you get closer to the cup, so you can probably deal with it."
The Blackhawks definitely seemed to handle bubble life well while they were experiencing it. After getting the rare postseason opportunity at No. 12 in the Western Conference at the time of the NHL pause on March 12, the Hawks looked like a team that deserved to be in the playoffs.
First, they upset the No. 5 home ice Oilers, who sported the league's top two point producers during the regular season (Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid) as well as the best power play and second best penalty kill.
Then, despite losing the first round series to Vegas 4-1, they hung in there against a Stanley-Cup caliber team for the most part, with three of their losses being decided by one goal.
Colliton, who won his first NHL postseason series as a head coach in the bubble against the Oilers, said the biggest challenge with bubble life for the Blackhawks was in not knowing what awaited them prior to their arrival in late July.
"Just the unknown... We didn't know what to expect going in," Colliton said. "When we had the two weeks in Chicago to prepare we tried to check all the boxes as far as our own preparation. Then when you get there you almost have to make a new plan according to the conditions and what's the hotel like?; And what's the meeting rooms like?; And what's the practice rink (like)?; What's the practice schedule?... and all those things. So we had an idea of what we wanted to do but you just basically draw a whole new plan up once you get there of how we're going to prepare the team to play.
"But, I think the players were very engaged right from the start, right from Chicago. Then when we got into Edmonton it was excellent, how focused they were and ready to do what they needed to do to win and I think that's why we had a good series (against Edmonton).
"We were ready to go. We knew what we had to do to have success against them and for the most part we did it and that's what you look for in your team: if there's a challenge you rise to it, you respond to adversity. We weren't very good in Game 2, we bounced back. That's what you're looking for in your team."
How bubble life was challenging for Blackhawks in 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago