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The Big Question: Is travel really a big factor in the NHL?

Dec 5, 2011, 1:33 PM EDT

Air Canada Jetz

The Big Question will be a weekly feature on PHT where we ask a question, provide some background and ask you, the reader, to weigh in with your opinions.

Today’s question: Is travel really a big factor in the NHL?

One of the main reasons the Detroit Red Wings want to move to the Eastern Conference is to reduce travel. Henrik Zetterberg says long trips to the west are particularly tough during the playoffs. Thus, the club’s push for realignment at today’s NHL Board of Governors meetings at Pebble Beach.

Historically, it’s been Pacific Coast teams like the Canucks that have been the most vocal about excessive travel. Understandable, considering the closest NHL city to Vancouver is Calgary, a flight time of approximately 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, the New York Rangers can take the bus to and from road games against the Islanders and Devils. It’s not a long drive to Philadelphia, either.

Clearly it’s an advantage to play in the east when it comes to travel, but is it a huge advantage? After all, it’s not like the Canucks are flying coach. Vancouver uses Air Canada Jetz, a luxury charter service that sells itself with lines like, “Arrive at your destination relaxed, renewed and ready to take on the day!”

According to the website, “Jetz charter planes are outfitted with over 64 Executive First class seats in total, and two tables per plane, along with a luxurious seat pitch of 48″. We are proud to offer comfort, convenience and high quality service to our discerning business and leisure clients, a luxury travel experience that far exceeds anyone’s expectations.”

Of course, a luxury charter can’t do anything about jetlag, which is one of the reasons the Canucks employ a “sleep expert.”

So…what do you think? Is travel a big factor in the NHL? Or does everyone just need to get a hold of themselves?

  1. jpelle82 - Dec 5, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    so annoying…ask baseball players from texas, kc, colorado, or arizona teams what they think about travel and how many more games they play per year. detroit needs to stop whining, its obvious it hasnt hurt them over the past 50 years

    • pastabelly - Dec 5, 2011 at 3:39 PM

      Well, you really can’t compare baseball to hockey. 81 road games is about only 27 different series and, for the most part, they only fly out once every four days on a road trip. But I agree with you about Detroit’s whining and that they shouldn’t get any special treatment.

      • gbiscottagecheesefatties - Dec 5, 2011 at 5:16 PM

        Flying can have certain effects on players bodies where most in baseball wont notice… Hockey players from all the hitting struggle with keeping swelling down due to all the travel (ask teams like Dallas, MN, blah blah blah)… it is an issue more than you would think.

  2. kopy - Dec 5, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    Ask the Wild. They have to go through lengthier-than-normal international security checks incredibly often thanks to their division. They have the longest flights to division opponents, since Vancouver and Alberta aren’t close. Also, they haven’t even played a road game in their own time zone yet this year.

  3. pastabelly - Dec 5, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    The travel argument is a red herring. Detroit knows that the cable television deal would be worth a lot more with less late west coast games starting 2-3 hours later.

    Teams that travel a lot more than Detroit does have won Stanley Cups. This is all about money and Illitich lining his pockets with more of it.

  4. davebabychreturns - Dec 5, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    ..Is this article seriously based on the assumption that Air Canada’s services come as advertised?

    Anyway I would probably agree that matching up with teams in the same time zone is at least as advantageous as matching up with teams with geographical proximity. As a Canucks fan I would much rather be in a division with the other PST Teams than in a division with four teams on Mountain and Central time.

    That being said I’d be curious to see if someone could draw any kind of correlation between the amount a team travels and the frequency with which they are able to practice; I know that with the Canucks going halfway across the continent for most of their playoff series an actual practice is usually out of the question, and there are usually at least a few road trips a year like that as well.

  5. ravenscaps48 - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    Pardon me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these guys getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play the sport they love? They get to travel on a PRIVATE plane that’s catered for ANY of their needs. The have maseuses and any accomadations that they want, and they’re complaining about the travel? Try getting a job like most people who have to fly coach in between two fatties trying to get an hour of sleep so they can try to get the next big investor for a company EVERY WEEK, Flying to different parts of the country EVERY WEEK… I don’t want to hear it. I barely clear 38k a year, and these prima donnas are complaining. Wow

    • nhmac - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:16 PM

      Well said man. Agree with everything.

    • davebabychreturns - Dec 5, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      Every team just wants to win, and when some teams are put at a significant disadvantage you can expect them to make an issue of it. Why would they do any differently?

      This has nothing to do with the resources put towards signing these players and keeping them comfortable and healthy – and while I get that it’s a hard pill for us peons to swallow, the simple fact is that the market dictates these players are worth millions of dollars and chartered flights and everything else you’re complaining about. If you don’t like it go to Russia, I guess.

    • franbotel - Dec 5, 2011 at 5:25 PM

      its not the players bitching its management. I guess it does not take much for you to start bashing players

    • nhlbruins90 - Dec 5, 2011 at 7:22 PM

      You’re wrong. They’re being paid MILLIONS to play the sport they love.

  6. comeonnowguys - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    It’s not just about the travel, it’s about the fanbases. It’s not out of the realm of possiblity for a team like Detroit or Chicago to have to play road playoff games in Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver. That’s a lot of 10/9c games.

    If you’re trying to grow a fan base, making them stay up till 1 a.m. may not be the best way to go.

    Four divisions with divisional playoff openers is the way to go.

    • nhlbruins90 - Dec 5, 2011 at 7:23 PM

      Valid point.

  7. nhlbruins90 - Dec 5, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Not to be indelicate, but while those pretty blonde wives look great on your arm, they do get tiresome after awhile. You know what they say about those NHL guys, the hardest part of a road trip is … well, you’ve heard it before.

  8. kibbee2545 - Dec 5, 2011 at 9:53 PM

    Detroit is complaining about going through 2 time zones especially during playoffs why do these always lose to the San Jose every year. Illitch does not any more money for his pockets Why doesn’t the NHL put the original six back together in one division

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