Nashville Predators’ goaltender Connor Ingram, a beloved Kamloops Blazers’ alumnus, broke from a Call of Duty session on Monday inside the JW Marriott bubble in Edmonton to chat with KTW.
The first full day (Monday) inside the National Hockey League Western Conference bubble was fairly straightforward (by pandemic standards): get up, perform a spit test that detects the novel coronavirus, have breakfast, take the bus to afternoon practice outside the bubble, come back to the hotel and lounge.
Ingram has been tested every day since June 25, when he arrived in Nashville after a long drive from Saskatoon.
Team meetings in the bubble are part of the daily routine, which also includes buffet-style meals, Playstation grudge matches and hanging out in the hotel courtyard.
Two framed photos greeted Ingram when he arrived in his hotel room on Sunday in Edmonton after the flight from Nashville — one of him and his three brothers, one of his girlfriend and their dog.
Nashville signed Ingram to a three-year contract worth $700,000 at the NHL level and $120,000 at the AHL level in 2020-2021, $750,000 at the NHL level and $125,000 at the AHL level in 2021-2022 and $750,000 in 2022-2023.
But NHL players are not paid during the playoffs. Ingram is living off a per diem and is not in line for any playoff bonuses.
Ingram, who was traded to Nashville from the Tampa Bay Lightning in June 2019, had the best season of his professional career in 2019-2020.
He toiled for the Milwaukee Admirals, the Predators’ American Hockey League affiliate, posting a 21-5-5 record with a 1.92 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.
The 23-year-old Imperial, Sask., product — a left glove who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 196 pounds — is not expected to be in the lineup on Thursday, when the Predators and Dallas Stars face off in exhibition action at Rogers Place.
Pekka Rinne, 37, and Juuse Saros, 25, are competing for the starting job and are expected suit up on Thursday, while Ingram and fellow Admirals’ backstop Troy Grosenick, 30, watch from a players’ suite.
Rogers Place and the JW Marriott are connected by a skyway, so players do not have to go outside to reach the rink. Ingram can walk to Rogers Place from his room in about five minutes.
Nashville and the Arizona Coyotes will square off in a best-of-five qualifying round series that begins on Aug. 2.
The next few seasons appear to be a window for Ingram to crack the Preds’ roster, with Rinne aging and his contract set to expire after the 2020-2021 campaign. Saros’ contract also expires in 2021.
Here are the results of a question-and-answer session with Ingram:
KTW: The Miami Marlins are having a COVID-19 outbreak. I know the MLB has handled all of this differently, but how much concern is there among your teammates about something like that happening inside the NHL bubble?
INGRAM: You never really know what’s going to happen, but I think the NHL has done a really good job of making sure we’re as protected as we can be. They put us in a bubble. We get tested every day. They’ve done everything they can to put our safety first and it’s pretty comfortable, especially now. They came out today [Monday] and said nobody tested positive in the last two weeks of NHL training camp. It’s good to know.
Everybody around, you know they haven’t been doing anything and they’ve been in the exact same spot you have. There isn’t really much to worry about anymore. It was a little bit different in Nashville, not really knowing what was going on or what the hotel was like.”
KTW: What will you miss most in the bubble?
INGRAM: My family, my friends, my girlfriend, my dog — the normal stuff. It’s hard now that it’s in the middle of the summer. The isolation from everyone and everything, that will be the hardest.
A lot of these guys on our team have families and have kids. People are super excited to watch hockey and I am, too, but these guys are giving up a lot to play hockey. It shows how much they care and how much they care about the fans. Some of these guys might leave their kids at home for the next three or four months. That’s got to be hard.”
KTW: Are you able to leave the hotel?
INGRAM: We don’t leave the hotel at all, especially for the first two weeks. We have to follow the Canadian quarantine rules. There might be golf, or things like that, after two weeks, but for right now, we’re all just tucked away out here. It would be nice to get out and have some outside time.
KTW: There are obviously a lot of things to be concerned about, but it also must be a ton of fun to be in this situation. How does it feel to be inside the NHL bubble?
INGRAM: It’s something I don’t think a lot of people will ever go through again. Most teams bring guys to black ace (a black ace is an affiliate player who, after his minor-league season is over, joins the big club during the post-season, but generally does not see game action), but this is kind of a different situation. It’s not just injuries. Someone might get sick and you might get thrown right in there.
KTW: So, you drove your car to Nashville from Saskatoon. You flew to Edmonton on Sunday. Where is it right now?
INGRAM: If you flew commercial, you had to quarantine and I only had a couple days’ notice to get down there, so I had to drive down. I don’t know if I’ll go back and get it or just wait until camp and drive it back to Milwaukee after camp. Hopefully, it’s safe where I put it for a couple months.
KTW: Arizona is the Round 1 opponent. That club just published one of the most blunt press releases about [former general manager John] Chayka. What’s the scuttlebutt around your team about that?
INGRAM: It hasn’t been talked about too much. I don’t think anybody really knows what’s going on or what went on. Maybe after we get a little bit more information, we can talk about it. I don’t think anybody inside hockey, unless you’re in that organization, knows what went on there.
KTW: Were you surprised when you were traded by Tampa?
INGRAM: No. At the end of last year, they basically told me they were going to try and find a different spot for me. I didn’t know where I was going to go or when or if it would happen. I never asked for a trade or anything like that. They just told me if something came up, they were going to go through with it.
I hope it doesn’t happen again. I’m excited to be here [with Nashville] for another three years. I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
KTW: Professional golfer Louis Oosthuizen has family in Kamloops and recently said Tobiano is his favourite place to play golf. You are a noted Tobiano lover. If KTW can set up a charity match, are you in?
INGRAM: I’d be there in a heartbeat.