That a-hole Jason Brough over at Pro Hockey Talk beat me to asking this question today (he’s actually a really nice guy, it was just inconsiderate of him to think the same thing as me before me): is travel really that big of a deal in hockey?
Every time travel is cited as a reason we need to change the League’s format, it’s taken without much examination because, ugh, travel sucks, right?
I’ve told this story 100 times because it’s my only taste of the NHL, but whatever, you’re getting it one more time because it highlights my point:
When I was at Islanders camp in 2007-2008, it was held in Moncton, New Brunswick. We took their chartered plane.
We arrived a few minutes before departure, drove up to the plane – like, in our cars, just drove up to the parking spots next to it – walked up the stairs, and sat down. All our gear was packed for us.
Even with the excess of players heading up there, basically anybody who wanted their own row could have it. We were served our choice of steak, chicken or rock bass. They brought around a tray of chocolate bars, gum, mints, etc.
You know how long that flight was?
Me neither. It was awesome.
So that’s how most NHL teams who’re flying are getting around. Actually, that was the Islanders. Other teams may just be using straight up teleportation.
Now, understand me on this: I get that it sucks to fly four or five hours to get home, or to get to your destination – I played college hockey in Alaska, which in case you were curious, isn’t exactly a direct flight to Houghton, Michigan or Grand Forks, North Dakota or Madison, Wisconsin.
I had a couple near-20 hour travel days that included carrying the skate sharpener through the Minneapolis airport on the way to a multi-hour bus ride. I played in Boise, Idaho and Salt Lake City, Utah. I know travelling sucks.
Which takes us to where I’m quite clearly trying to lead you: that these guys have to eat rock bass in leather seats while icing their knees and unwinding is hardly something that requires much attention.
Granted, if there’s a better way to do things for these guys, I’m all for minimizing the amount of travel they have to do. Why not, sure. But to put the NHL in a situation where you may end up changing our current playoff format (which allows, y’know, the best teams in the conference to make playoffs) because the duration of a flight is too long for a few guys…BOO.