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.

Wysh touched on this over at Puck Daddy today. While there are plenty of pros, I think the cost of major realignment is too big to ignore.

Comments (16)

  1. I don’t think that travel is that big a deal either.

    however, having half of your games start two hours later only hurts the fan base and revenue. Add in the fact that the proposed realignment results in several teams with better regional rivalries and I think you have a sum-total win.

    I don’t think that the Florida teams will mind their increased travel, given the increase in snowbird sales they can look forward too either…

  2. Home and home with all teams in the league and not having to watch game after game after game for our “division rivals” starting after 8pm does it for me.

    • I agree, I think getting teams playing in their own time zone is more of an arguement. I am on the West Coast and 4pm starts are a nightmare.

      • I’m on the East Coast. 10pm starts REALLY sucks. I can’t stay up to watch the game because I have to be to work by 7. I almost always see the score of the game by accident (Facebook, RSS feed, newspaper, etc), even though I have it recorded and want to watch it for real the next day. I’d rather just record it and watch it 2 hours late than have to watch it 20 hours later.

  3. Sure, there are a couple good reasons to take a look at realignment. I just don’t buy travel as one of them (especially if they mean “travel costs.” Boo on that too.).

    • I agree with you here – TRAVEL should NOT be a concern of realignment. It should be about making the league better – making it so Detroit fans don’t have to stay up an extra 3 hours to watch the start of 1/3 of thier teams games (I’m and Islanders fan not a Detroit fan) – this goes for other teans too Columbus, Nash. etc. Growing the hockey base is a major goal of the NHL right? Well when 1/3 of the games for those teams start at 10pm in the east how many kids are watching?!? NHL is most concerned with viewership and ratings becasue those = $$ as they should… it would be very nice to get to a balanced schedulebut at the same time keep the East / West thing… One one question I have is why not put FLA and Tampa in the “East” and Philly and Pitt in the “North with Boston, MTL etc…”

  4. I don’t think that any of the teams who are currently complaining (the easternmost Western teams) have issues about about the duration or quality of the actual travel experience. It’s primarily a time zone concern, and particularly a playoff concern when Eastern teams aren’t facing this additional physiological burden.

    If anything, this seems like a counterargument to the Eastern teams that are content with the status quo: a few long flights a year for a home-and-home with everybody won’t kill them.

  5. Is a divisional playoff scheme where the top four in each are locked absolutely necessary? Leave the conference buckets in place around the new divisions and come up with something that will save the down-to-the-wire points race.

  6. I don’t think that travel is as big an issue in this debate as everyone is making it out to be. I think the primary concern surrounding the re-alignment is making sure that fans of the team can actually watch the games.

    Yeah, the die hard Columbus Blue Jackets fans will stay up for a game on the left coast no matter what. But how many more die hard Blue Jackets fans would there be if they didn’t have to all that often? While their ideas for the playoffs isn’t the greatest(why not have conferences and divisions for scheduling purposes, but the top 16 teams in the league make it, no matter what) I think that the pros of the new proposal greatly outweigh the cons.

    You’ve got to remember that, at the end of the day, it’s a business and the best way to bring in money is to get fans that are passionate about your team. Fans are going to be a lot more likely to tune into games that they don’t have to stay up until a million o’clock in the morning to watch, especially when they have work and other obligations the next day.

    Yeah, the die hard fans will watch the games regardless, but in some cases, just having the die hard fans watch the game isn’t necessarily enough.

    • As a Blue Jackets fan in Columbus, its worse than just staying up late for the games. Usually the team will have a few west coast road trips during the season. The team will have a few times a year, where they have no games starting before 9 or 10 at night. There are WEEKS where the team just drops off the map locally. Any momentum the teams has with the fans is just completely lost. And this isn’t like Detroit where you have decades of history supporting it.

  7. I love the idea of playing all the teams in the league more often. More variety is good in that regards. But I also love having some geographic divisions. Right now it’s just completely out of whack, trying to force teams into 5-team divisions just for the sake of doing it.

    Playoffs I’m torn on. I love having a divisional element to build rivalries. The odds of meeting the same team(s) are a lot higher with the new proposal than the current system. And I doubt that would affect things negatively. It’s not like people get bored watching Boston-Montreal or Pittsburgh-Philly.

    The two flaws I see are the unbalanced teams in the conferences (7 vs 8) and playoff re-seeding after two rounds. I’m not sure what the proposal is, but I’d rather we have two “West” conferences and two “East” conferences that are set. That way you can have a real bracket for the playoffs. And the people who like the old system can at least cling to that.

    I don’t see anything wrong with having better teams miss on the playoffs because of the divisions. It’s been that way the entire time East vs West and it works just fine for the NFL.

  8. I don’t think the owners or GM’s really give a rat’s behind about travel discomfort. They do care about (a) timezone changes that mess with everyone’s body clocks. (OTOH…. you would be hard pressed to say that the west has suffered in competition with the east, and it’s the wet that travels more), and more importantly (b) the start times for away games. Detroit fans (and other eastern west-coast teams) do have this bad. When 20 games a year start at 9 or 10 pm, it does hurt your tv revenue.

  9. I personally love the divisonal play aspect and could careless if the occasional 5 seed in one conference is better than the 4 in another. Brings it down to the conference play, you wanna win the cup gotta beat your conference. If you couldn’t finish in the top 4 of your conference, you don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.

  10. I’m dating an ex-Columbus resident and I can tell you that she has lots of examples of people who’d be fans of the BJs but turned away from them because they can’t stand the games starting at late hours.

    That needs to be fixed.

    As for the playoff format… just tweak it so that there’s a potential crossover between the two teams at the bottom of the paired conferences. Preserves the divisional playoff play that we’ve always wanted while largely being equitable.

    And, no, I’m not just saying that because the Kings would’ve been out of the playoffs last year under the new format. Although that’s a big part of it.

  11. So the NHL wants to grow southern teams. Then they need to understand the South.
    There NEEDS to be a southern division. Geographically it works but where it is most important is that CULTURALLY it works. In the minds of people from the south, we are an entity unto ourselves. Part of a larger whole certaintly, but if you give us rivalaries with other Southern teams, the NHL will grow strong southern roots.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *