The San Jose Sharks are in the middle of a road trip that will send them careening 6,400 miles across the North American continent by air, beginning with a visit to Winnipeg, then off to Calgary, on to Vancouver tonight, back to Edmonton and then a trip to Chicago before returning home.
It’s quite the zig zag—the team will change time zones before each game. For veteran Sharks, it’s not anything new, but for Tyler Kennedy, who came over from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the offseason, it’s different.
“You change time zones like you change your underwear,” Kennedy told CSNBayArea.com. “It’s crazy. I can’t believe it.”
And it’s probably a delight for whoever is sitting next to Kennedy on the flights. I kid, I kid.
Playing in the Western Conference is a challenge. The teams are much more far-flung, stretching across 2,000 miles or so and three time zones (Pacific, Mountain, Central). By contrast, the Eastern Conference is entirely contained within the Eastern Time Zone and the flights are generally quick. For the teams in the New York metropolitan area—the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and New York Rangers—many of the “away” games involve taking a bus across the Hudson or to a different borough and doesn’t involve air travel at all. When the Islanders move into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015-16, the bus trips will be even shorter than they are now.
The Sharks are on course to travel more miles than any team in the NHL this season, even without having to leave in February for the annual tennis tournament trip. The current trip had the added bonus of splitting up the games in Calgary and Edmonton—separated by 172 miles—with the trip to Canada’s Pacific Coast and Vancouver. That just seems to be a special kind of dumb.
The Sharks practiced Wednesday in Vancouver, but coach Todd McLellan said the staff is aware of the challenges of being such frequent fliers.
“We have to make sure that we’re getting the right amount of rest,” McLellan said. “It takes away from sone quality practice time. You could see we weren’t out there for very long and the intensity wasn’t very high. That was by design.”
If there is a positive to the current trip, it is that it is the season’s longest. The Sharks won’t leave San Jose for more than three games at a stretch after December.
“It’s nice to get it out of the way earlier than later and hopefully we’re fresher come March,” defenseman Dan Boyle said.
And maybe next season, someone in the NHL’s scheduling department will look at a map of Alberta and make the shocking discovery that Calgary and Edmonton are practically neighbors.