The St. Louis Blues offer no excuses for their loss to Chicago. Yet, adjusting to a completely different arena environment had to play a part.
Imagine yourself in a club or bar or party where the place is packed and the volume of your voice to attempt talking to someone. That’s roughly the volume that the St. Louis Blues, and all pro hockey players, are accustomed to using.
Now, imagine using that same volume in the same club or bar or party, but nobody else is in there. It would be rather off-putting.
As human beings, we become accustomed to our environment being a certain way and we act accordingly. We are very capable of adapting to a different scenario, but it does not often come right away.
That is the situation that the NHL players find themselves in.
Whether it be the Blues or any other NHL team, they are used to having fans in the stands. We joke all the time about games in Miami or Arizona being empty and it not making a difference.
While players remark how they can hear individual fans during Miami Marlins games, you are still dealing with a thousand people or more. There is still a certain buzz of noise, even if it is much quieter.
When there are literally no fans in the stands, especially at an indoor event like hockey, it is going to be very eerie. Just think of how oddly quiet your house gets when the power goes out and there is noting humming of electricity.
St. Louis will adapt, no doubt. However, that first experience had to be almost out of body.
“Not having fans, especially the stoppages in play and TV timeouts, it’s weird,” Ryan O’Reilly said, as reported by Tom Timmermann in the Post-Dispatch. “You can kind of hear every little thing and even on the ice, with no fans, the communication you could hear a lot clearer, which was just different.”
That has to be another factor. Hockey is not like baseball with secret signs or basketball with set plays, or even worse football where they feel the need to cover their mouth for everything. Yet, it has to be very strange to be able to hear every little thing an opposing player says.
Even stick taps meant to get the attention of a teammate are much more likely to be heard by the opponent. How do you alter that? Are there things said by coaches or players that are honestly not meant for the opponent and if so, how do you prevent them from hearing it when there is no other noise to drown you out?
You could wait until a break in the action, if they are still playing music in the arena for breaks. Even that might not be quite enough.
No matter what, it is definitely a situation we should not envy. These are professionals and they are paid accordingly, but athletes tend to feed off a crowd.
We can simplify it and say this is just like playing in those early morning games as a kid. There was not this kind of trophy on the line for those games though. The Blues will adapt and hopefully as early as their first game against Colorado. For now, it is definitely a big adjustment.