Short-season travel bigger issue in West than East

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm •  Published: January 18, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Zach Parise and Ryan Suter can afford the hottest travel accessories on the market.

Armed with matching $98 million deals, there's no need for the Minnesota Wild stars to skimp on in-flight comfort. They should order a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and self-inflating lumbar cushions. Forget about sky-high salaries. The Wild may not win a Stanley Cup, but they're already guaranteed to lead the NHL in frequent-flier miles — more than 31,000 of them, in fact, a high for any team in this compressed, lockout-shortened season.

In this 48-game sprint toward the Cup, the West will be won by surviving the road.

"It'll be an adjustment for me," Parise, the former New Jersey Devils captain, said. "The travel I'm accustomed to is always pretty easy. It'll be a few more plane rides, a few more time zone changes, but I'm sure I'll get used to it."

Had Parise re-signed with the Devils, he wouldn't have even been able to finish a 133-minute movie on an iPad like "This is 40," before the bus arrived in Philadelphia. No team will travel less than the Devils this season, only 11,659 miles, according to ontheforecheck.com, which calculated all the distances for each team.

Did someone say, "Road trip!"

Indeed, East teams will come out the big winner in the quest for rest this season.

Teams that take buses and trains instead of planes might benefit from the shortened season in the postseason, and the fans, well, they might be the biggest winners of them all. They will get to see more regional rivalries played out instead of seeing anonymous teams from the other conference.

"The rivalries are going to be pretty big," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said.

Teams will play 18 games within their division: four games (two home and two away) against two of the teams in the division, five games (three home and two away) against another team in the division, and five games (two home and three away) against the remaining divisional opponent.

To complete the 720-game schedule, clubs will play three games against each of the 10 remaining non-divisional opponents in their conference.

Outside of the division, a team will face five clubs twice at home and once away, and play once at home and twice on the road against the other five teams.

The West teams always travel more by nature of how they're lumped together in divisions (Dallas and Anaheim in the Pacific?).

But this year it's increasingly lopsided: The top seven road-trippin' teams are in the West: Minnesota (31,345), Dallas, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Calgary and Detroit will each travel more than 27,000 miles.

And the heaviest East team, in terms of travel, really should be a West team anyway. Winnipeg still takes up residence in the Southeast Division, where Atlanta roamed before the franchise moved to Canada. Either way, the Jets will travel 27,431 miles, but still less than those aforementioned seven West clubs.

No surprise, the teams in the Atlantic Division will be sitting pretty. Ranked from the bottom up, the Devils, Rangers, Islanders and Flyers will each travel less than 15,000 miles. For those teams, the lengthy road trips to strange arenas in San Jose and Anaheim are out this season.

"I won't miss it this year. There's just not enough time and too many games being played," Flyers coach Laviolette said. "I think there's nothing I'm going to miss about the West Coast this year."

Some of the travel woes were set to be addressed by realignment. The NHL decided last season to move from six divisions to four conferences. Carolina, both New York teams, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington would be in one group; Boston, Buffalo, Montreal and Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay would be another; Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg would be a third; and Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Phoenix, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton and Vancouver would be the last.

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