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Not-so frequent flyers

Jets' travel schedule not nearly as tough as most assume it will be

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It is more myth than fact, but it hasn't stopped the theory from grabbing hold and circulating throughout the NHL.

And it goes like this: the Winnipeg Jets -- inheriting the Atlanta Thrashers' spot in the Southeast Division -- are going to be so travel-weary this winter they'll be wandering around airports all over North American looking like the zombies from Night of the Living Dead.

 Heck, they've got two planes heading out for road trips this weekend alone -- one to Nashville then to St. John's, N.L., the other to Carolina -- for three games in three nights.

"Not many teams travel more than 7 1/2 hours in the exhibition season and we're in the 23-hour range," said Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger. "But, hey, we inherited this schedule and we've got to get through these situations."

Still, it's here where the myth about the Jets and their supposedly nightmarish travel schedule in 2011-12 needs to be debunked a tad. According to numbers crunched by the website ontheforecheck.com, the Jets will travel 44,627 miles this season, which ranks 10th among the 30 NHL teams.

And although Winnipeg is the only team in the league that doesn't have at least one divisional rival in its time zone, that total is just slightly higher -- 548 miles, to be exact -- than what the Thrashers' travelled last year. The key factor to consider is this: a year ago Atlanta had 16 one-game road trips; this year that number is halved as the Jets bang off more games per trip after heading south and east.

"Is it the best schedule? No. Is it the worst? No," said Heisinger. "But the other part of all this is the other teams have to come all this way to play us as well. They may be more encumbered by it because they haven't had to do it, especially in the east, until we got dropped in their lap.

"We're probably more happy to deal with it than they are. I don't know if it's an advantage for us -- I haven't looked at the travel of other teams -- but maybe our attitude toward it will be different than those who had this forced upon them."

Let's also not paint the picture that the Jets will be attempting to squeeze Dustin Byfuglien into the middle seat of a commercial flight between a crying baby and her mother and an old dude with a tiny bladder. All NHL teams fly in style on high-end charters that give them first-class treatment from gate to gate.

And it's not like most players -- especially those schooled in the minors or major junior -- aren't accustomed to long trips, anyway. The team's trainers have also schooled players into travelling smart, from drinking lots of water to getting rest, to avoid jet-lag legs that give out not long after the national anthems.

"The travel was a topic of conversation throughout the summer," said veteran Jets defenceman Mark Stuart. "We heard, 'Oh, you guys are still in the Southeast? It's going to be terrible travel.' But it's not that bad.

"I don't mind it. It's not that big a thing. Some of those long trips are great for your team because you're together all the time, you're hanging out quite a bit and you can use those trips as a team-building thing.

"There's really no excuses. It's not like what Vancouver or L.A. or those West Coast teams have to go through. That's tough out there."

The hockey ops department has also spent hours studying when to come home after games, whether than means chartering back to Winnipeg immediately after a game or spending an extra night on the road.

"It's incumbent on the trainers to make sure the players are properly fed and watered, so to speak," said Heisinger. "But it's also incumbent on the management side to make good decisions on when to travel and when not to travel. All those things factor in to how you perform and you have to make good decisions.

"Much like everything else since this process started in May, there's going to be a learning curve."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Air miles galore

A look at the travel miles all 30 NHL teams will amass this season, courtesy ontheforecheck.com, including the four squads that start the season in Europe -- Anaheim, Buffalo, Los Angeles and New York Rangers:

TEAM MILES

1. Los Angeles Kings 55,591

2. Florida Panthers 52,751

3. Anaheim Ducks 50,296

4. Edmonton Oilers 50,006

5. Dallas Stars 49,622

6. Phoenix Coyotes 49,192

7. Calgary Flames 49,104

8. Colorado Avalanche 48,945

9. Vancouver Canucks 46,826

10. WINNIPEG JETS 44,627

11. San Jose Sharks 43,994

12. Tampa Bay Lightning 43,717

13. Detroit Red Wings 42,865

14. Minnesota Wild 42,860

15. Columbus Blue Jackets 42,831

16. Nashville Predators 39,534

17. Chicago Blackhawks 39,288

18. Montreal Canadiens 39,174

19. St. Louis Blues 38,781

20. Carolina Hurricanes 38,114

21. Washington Capitals 37,969

22. New York Rangers 36,385

23. Buffalo Sabres 35,911

24. Philadelphia Flyers 34,193

25. Ottawa Senators 33,915

26. Boston Bruins 33,770

27. Pittsburgh Penguins 33,439

28. New York Islanders 32,410

29. Toronto Maple Leafs 32,239

30. New Jersey Devils 28,597

 

FROM WINNIPEG TO THE REST OF THE SOUTHEAST DIVISION

Washington --1,085

Raleigh -- 1,162

Tampa -- 1,477

Fort Lauderdale -- 1,633

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 23, 2011 C1

History

Updated on Friday, September 23, 2011 at 10:22 AM CDT: Changed art.

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