December 10, 2018

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Opinion

Disruptive air travel makes road games all the worse

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Xcel Energy Center prior to playoff game 3 between the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild, Sunday. When travel schedules are rearranged, the visiting team's time to relax and loosen up can get squeezed.</p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Xcel Energy Center prior to playoff game 3 between the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild, Sunday. When travel schedules are rearranged, the visiting team's time to relax and loosen up can get squeezed.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/4/2018 (237 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I’ve never really been in the business of making excuses. But when you take three different flights over the course of 24 hours to make it to a single game day destination, it’s gonna show up on the field. Or in this case, on the ice.

The Winnipeg Jets took three different flights to get to St. Paul, Minn., for their game against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night. The first one got diverted to Duluth, Minn. Then they returned to Winnipeg that same day. Then, finally, they flew directly to Minneapolis on Sunday morning. While a flight from Winnipeg to Minneapolis is barely more than an hour, the fatigue and disruption to the players can be far more pronounced.

If you’ve ever flown anywhere to play a sport, you know air travel takes a toll, and can tax your body and stress you. The effects of being in an aluminum tube at 30,000 feet, breathing recycled air, and dealing with the pressure and elevations changes are well documented. As someone who flew to game day destinations over the course of 15 years, the first and biggest disadvantage of being on the road was always the air travel.

It dehydrates you far more than you realize, it can knot up your muscles and give you cramps. It’s uncomfortable if you’re taller than six feet and weigh more than two hundred pounds, and your legs are never the same as when you left home. You never seem to have the same jump, explosive capacity or wind, when you travel. These aren't excuses, as every team experiences these realities, but when you are forced to do it three times for only one game, you are virtually guaranteeing that you are going to be extra tired, more disgruntled than usual and all out of sorts.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/4/2018 (237 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I’ve never really been in the business of making excuses. But when you take three different flights over the course of 24 hours to make it to a single game day destination, it’s gonna show up on the field. Or in this case, on the ice.

The Winnipeg Jets took three different flights to get to St. Paul, Minn., for their game against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night. The first one got diverted to Duluth, Minn. Then they returned to Winnipeg that same day. Then, finally, they flew directly to Minneapolis on Sunday morning. While a flight from Winnipeg to Minneapolis is barely more than an hour, the fatigue and disruption to the players can be far more pronounced.

If you’ve ever flown anywhere to play a sport, you know air travel takes a toll, and can tax your body and stress you. The effects of being in an aluminum tube at 30,000 feet, breathing recycled air, and dealing with the pressure and elevations changes are well documented. As someone who flew to game day destinations over the course of 15 years, the first and biggest disadvantage of being on the road was always the air travel.

It dehydrates you far more than you realize, it can knot up your muscles and give you cramps. It’s uncomfortable if you’re taller than six feet and weigh more than two hundred pounds, and your legs are never the same as when you left home. You never seem to have the same jump, explosive capacity or wind, when you travel. These aren't excuses, as every team experiences these realities, but when you are forced to do it three times for only one game, you are virtually guaranteeing that you are going to be extra tired, more disgruntled than usual and all out of sorts.

Hockey players, like many professional athletes, can be a superstitious bunch, and are creatures of routine and habit. Part of dealing with road trips is sticking to your system and making sure you don’t deviate. Whether it’s a walk-through the previous night before a football game, eating at a particular restaurant in a particular city, or the morning skate the day of the hockey game, players have a routine and things they do on the road before a game.

When your schedule gets turned upside down due to weather and flight cancellations, it plants a seed of doubt and distraction, and can leave an athlete wondering how they are going to perform.

The time an athlete spends leading up to the first whistle of a kickoff or the initial puck drop is designed to be as relaxing and smooth as possible. All you have to do is pack and show up on time. You don’t have to think or worry about anything outside of what book you’re going to read or what in-flight movie you are going to watch. You are given an itinerary, you have transportation waiting for you, you have meetings scheduled, and you are given plenty of time to relax, rest and recover.

Taking two extra flights may not sound like a big deal to the casual observer, but that is absolute chaos for a finely tuned athlete expecting to be in chill mode for as long as possible. The schedule starts changing, meal plans go out the window, meetings get cancelled or rearranged, and stress levels get elevated and disrupt sleep patterns.

Road games are never easy, because you’re travelling into hostile territory and are greeted by thousands of fans who want nothing more than to see you fail. When your systems and routines are disrupted along the way, and you pile on adverse elements and things that never happen on standard road trips, you end up staring down the barrel of a performance that has "lacklustre" written all over it.

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Doug Brown

Doug Brown
Columnist

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

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