“It’s been a while,” Washington Capitals winger Garnet Hathaway said Sunday morning, and while the 28-year-old could’ve been talking about the seeming eternity since his team last played a meaningful hockey game, he was referring specifically to the three months that had passed since he recorded an episode of “Between Two Blue Lines” with teammate Nic Dowd.
On the eve of the Capitals opening round-robin play as part of the NHL’s restart, the stars of the league’s first player-hosted podcast hopped on a Zoom call from their respective rooms across the hall in Hotel X in Toronto, where the team is staying. Over the next 30 minutes, amid plenty of banter and a few inside jokes, the duo dished on their first week in the bubble, answered fan questions and shared their thoughts on a Stanley Cup playoffs unlike any other before.
“It’s like the safest place in the world right now,” Dowd said on the latest episode of the podcast of the NHL’s “secure area” in Toronto, one of the league’s two postseason hub cities along with Edmonton. “I don’t really know what day it is, per se. It’s either a game day, an off day or a practice day inside the bubble. It’s all hockey. That’s your biggest thing to worry about, which is pretty good. I think the NHL and the [NHL Players’ Association] have done a good job so far. I think it’s been pretty great.”
Dowd later described the experience as like an “adult summer camp.” With only one exhibition game in the week since they arrived July 26, Capitals players have found themselves with an inordinate amount of free time outside of practice, and no shortage of things to do. Goaltending coach Scott Murray brought a Wiffle ball set and two custom Crokinole boards and has been schooling all challengers in the board game, which is popular in his southern Ontario hometown.
On Friday, Dowd and Hathaway were doubles partners when several players got together for some tennis. They said Ilya Kovalchuk, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson were among the standouts on the court.
“You do not want to get in front of Tom’s serve,” Hathaway said.
“No, classic Wilson, power serve,” Dowd agreed. “Not only that, but he serves it when guys aren’t paying attention, either. I’ve never seen a guy serve the ball more when guys are trying to get into position and get their feet set. … If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”
That’s the sort of behind-the-scenes anecdote with a dose of chirping that listeners have come to expect on “Between Two Blue Lines,” which launched in October and has 69,000 total plays across iTunes, SoundCloud and Spotify, according to a team spokeswoman. Dowd and Hathaway almost never delve into the X’s and O’s of their sport, choosing instead to talk about their families and time spent off the ice. The latest episode begins with a brief recap of Hathaway’s July 4 wedding, while Dowd occasionally provides updates on life as a new father after he and his wife, Paige, welcomed a son, Louie, on New Year’s Eve.
“Nic and I, we just met at the start of the season, but we had a good relationship,” said Hathaway, who signed as a free agent with the Capitals in July 2019. He added that the idea of starting a podcast “was mentioned and we thought it would be a cool idea, because we can give fans the inside perspective.”
Dowd, who is in his second season with Washington, said he enjoys providing fans another window into the team.
“If you can sift through some of the banter that we have, a lot of it is just inside stuff that reporters and/or fans wouldn’t have access to unless they listen to our podcast,” he said after recording Sunday’s episode. “The point isn’t to relay that information; it’s to kind of spread light on the normalcy of what we do as an everyday NHL hockey player.”
Zach Guerette, the Capitals’ manager of digital media, produces and co-hosts the podcast. On Sunday, he steered the conversation to a variety of questions submitted by fans on social media, including whether Dowd and Hathaway would rather have the ability to shoot bubbles from their fingers or ride in a huge bubble as a vehicle.
“That’s obvious,” Dowd said.
“Yeah, that’s obvious,” Hathaway agreed, before clarifying that the only correct answer is the bubble vehicle.
With the Capitals beginning round-robin play Monday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dowd said he suspected the “adult summer camp” experience would begin to feel more like being on an extended road trip. While Washington’s schedule for the week is set, the next recording date for “Between Two Blue Lines” is to be determined.
“Hopefully, in a couple weeks we’ll have something new to talk about,” Dowd said. “I guess we’ll see how our fans react to this one.”
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