By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Hockey. Is. Back.

That’s a development that sports fans desperately need — especially as MLB and the NFL look to be floundering a bit with their non-bubble plans. So with teams settling in to their bubbles — the Eastern Conference in Toronto and the Western Conference in Edmonton — it’s finally time for fans to catch a glimpse of real, live hockey for the first time since March.

It began Tuesday afternoon with an exhibition game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Though the game is more or less just a warm-up for the games that really count this weekend, the players were taking it quite seriously, knowing that they don’t have a lot of time to catch up to playoff speed.

The exhibition game also gave fans their first glimpse of what games inside the bubble will look like on television. And if we’re being honest, it’s … pretty good!

The NHL covered up the lower sections of Scotiabank Arena to give it less of an empty feel, while placing large video boards around the rink as well.

A general view prior to an exhibition game between the Penguins and Flyers. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

A general view prior to an exhibition game between the Penguins and Flyers. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

In between the benches, where Pierre McGuire and Brian Boucher stand to provide their in-game commentary, the NHL installed a bubble within a bubble, to help limit person-to-person contact:

Broadcaster Brian Boucher works the exhibition game between the Penguins and Flyers. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

Matt Murray and Carter Hart talk in front of NBC Sports’ Brian Boucher. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

The game also featured artificial crowd noise, which was very subtle during play, but it came in perfectly and — dare I say — naturally for the first two goals of the game. Hear for yourself:

And the game itself? Sure, there’s some rust to shake off. But these guys are good.

Conor Sheary scores against Carter Hart. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

While there is simply no emulating the intense atmosphere of playoff hockey, early returns indicate that … NHL fans will have no trouble enjoying these games. It’s different, to be sure. But it’s … not bad. Not bad at all.

With zero positive tests league-wide … and with carefully created bubbles in place … this has the potential to work. And based on the first look, it has the potential to be fantastic.

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