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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The NHL Players Association stalled the implementation, though, citing concerns about increased travel and competitive imbalance, with two conferences of eight teams each and two others with seven apiece. The issue was not part of the CBA talks, though, so that's the next item for the two sides to work on. After all, how much longer does Winnipeg truly need to be in the same division with teams that play in Raleigh, N.C., and Sunrise, Fla.?

Until then, the West teams will put up with more jet lag and less practice time.

"It (stinks)," Dallas Stars forward Brenden Morrow said. "Can't wait for realignment. It is what is it is. I'm used to it. The body doesn't always love it. We just have to deal with it. No one's doing us any favors. No one really cares. It's not like we're slumming it around on airplanes. We've got pretty good travel. It's a long time in the air and a lot of miles we're putting on."

The Wild are planning to stay overnight in some West Coast cities on road trips, move back practice times when necessary to accommodate travel schedules and even cancel some morning skates and practices to make sure they're staying fresh.

"There's going to be some tough stretches, but we'll be able to manage it, know when to stay the night, when to leave early," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said. "They're going to do a good job managing it."

While fans on the East Coast won't have to stay up past their bedtime to catch the end of games, fans of West teams will miss trips from Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. No Giroux. No Henrik Lundqvist.

That might cost the conference at the gate. After all, led by Lundqvist's Rangers and their average of 18,530 fans per game, the top eight road-drawing teams last season all came from the East.

In St. Paul, Minn., fans are excited for the realignment that'll put the Wild with Chicago, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville next season. More games this year against Calgary and Edmonton, however, don't do anything for ticket sales.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz noted all the road-weary West teams are in the same boat (or is it private jet?). So the miles shouldn't matter.

Let's face it, Shea Weber and Patrick Kane aren't flying standby and checking in to discount hotels off the highway. Most fans couldn't ever accumulate enough Marriott rewards points or earn enough credit card miles to travel each week like NHL teams. The players will be fatigued, but OK.

But can a West team win a Cup? Well, the last team to win one in a 48-game season in 1995 was, yup, New Jersey.

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AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell, John Marshall, Schuyler Dixon, Ira Podell and Teresa M. Walker contributed to this story.