Emily Kaplan, ESPN.com national NHL reporter, is covering the Dallas-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final for ESPN, having completed her 14-day quarantine in Edmonton. She is the only ESPN representative with in-arena access. Game 3 is tonight. Follow Kaplan’s coverage on ESPN platforms.
After working 25 consecutive Finals together, fan favorites Steve Levy and Barry Melrose are not on site so Emily Kaplan, ESPN.com’s NHL reporter, came up with a creative idea to honor them and keep their streak alive as seen in the photo above.
Kaplan tells Front Row about her tribute to the duo as well as covering the Stanley Cup Final under such unique circumstances.
What steps were taken so you could travel to Edmonton?
Typically we travel through the playoffs, but obviously this year is different. My editors had to get approval not only from their managers, but human resources and legal. Once they determined it was safe for me to travel, and all agreed that the trip was business critical, I got approval. I was told about a week before I left and I was extremely grateful for the opportunity.
Tell us about traveling into Canada and through Customs?
Since the border is closed for non-essential travel, I had two letters of support with me — one from the NHL, one from ESPN – explaining that I was credentialed to cover the Final. On Sept. 1, I flew from Chicago, where I live, to Toronto, where I went through customs. They asked me several questions about why I was traveling and where I was planning to quarantine, and after that, I made my connection to Edmonton. I hadn’t been on a flight in several months. Air Canada did a great job making everyone feel safe, clean and distanced.
How long did you quarantine and what did you do?
I had to quarantine for 14 days, alone. I rented an AirBnB, instead of a hotel, so I could have a little more freedom and flexibility. I ordered groceries (the produce in Alberta is amazing!), wine, and just hunkered down with work and caught up on some reading. Since the conference finals were going on, I was lucky I could watch hockey every night — something to look forward to!
After games, we go to an area in the concourse where they set up chairs and cameras and we can interview the players on Zoom. It’s still a little weird asking these questions virtually, and especially weird knowing they are in the same building but we can’t see them.
– Emily Kaplan on the ZOOM interview procedures for post-game interviews under COVID-19 protocols
What’s the first thing you did when your quarantine period ended?
I went for a walk in downtown Edmonton to take in the sights, since I’ve never been here, and stretch my legs! There is also a gorgeous path along the river valley and I’ve taken advantage of it to run and walk.
What’s the press set up at the arena?
It’s definitely different! The NHL didn’t allow for independent media in the bubble, so I am “bubble-adjacent.” I enter the arena through an entrance separate from the players and I sit high up in the press box — extremely socially distanced from my neighbor. There’s only about two dozen of us covering the event on site; typically the NHL credentials hundreds of media for the Stanley Cup Final. After games, we go to an area in the concourse where they set up chairs and cameras and we can interview the players on Zoom. It’s still a little weird asking these questions virtually, and especially weird knowing they are in the same building but we can’t see them.
Did you expect Dallas and Tampa Bay in the Final?
The Lightning I’m not as surprised by. Since the 2016-17 season, they have the most wins in the league. This team is due. After their epic collapse in last year’s playoffs, I like the way management responded. They didn’t blow up the entire roster; they just made several smart additions to add what coach Jon Cooper calls “more personality.” The Stars, however, I’m pretty surprised by. They had a tumultuous season, which included a 1-7-1 start and a December coaching change. But Dallas has improved every series this summer, and has proven it has high talent, but is also adaptable. I’m excited, it’s going to be a great series.
What inspired you to honor Melrose and Levy?
Ever since I began covering the NHL for ESPN in 2017, one of the highlights of the job has always been covering the Stanley Cup Final. It also meant seeing Barry and Steve on the road every June. Not only have they been incredibly kind and supportive to me as a new coworker, but they’ve also been role models — I admire the passion and enthusiasm they brought every single day at the rink. They love being there, they love being around hockey, they love sharing what they know with viewers at home. I know their Stanley Cup Final streak was something they were extremely proud of, and when I found out I was the only person from the company traveling this year, I felt some guilt. I decided I would try to keep their streak “alive.”
I found a local print shop in downtown Edmonton. I called them, explained what I wanted to do with the cardboard cutout, and the staff was extremely helpful getting it done. – Kaplan on turning her idea into a reality
What steps did you take to accomplish your goal?
I found a local print shop in downtown Edmonton. I called them, explained what I wanted to do with the cardboard cutout, and the staff was extremely helpful getting it done. I sent them a photo of Barry and Steve and a week later, they had it ready for me to pick up!