Canucks set for epic road trip
Players will spend 44 days away from GM Place over 14-game road swing
Hockey players say road trips are great for team bonding.
So the Vancouver Canucks should be blood brothers by March 13 when they finally return to GM Place to face the Ottawa Senators.
"Either we're ready to kill each other or we've had some good stories on the road," said fourth-liner Darcy Hordichuk before the club began its epic pre- and post-Olympic journey Thursday.
By the time the travelling ends, the Canucks will have logged more than 20,000 kilometres, gone 44 days without a home date and played 14 away contests.
They're the NHL's vagabonds because the Winter Olympics have taken over GM Place.
"You go to brothers, then you go beyond," winger Tanner Glass said of the bonding process. "You go to siblings and have rivalries with your roommates."
Glass rooms with Hordichuk, the team enforcer.
"I'll probably want to strangle him by the end of this," Glass said with a grin.
In addition to a steady diet of hostile rinks — the first being Toronto's Air Canada Centre for Saturday's game — the Canucks' odyssey will take them from mid-winter Montreal to balmy Florida then back to freezing Minnesota.
"It's something I've never experienced," Alex Burrows, who once rode the buses in the ECHL, said of the next month and a half. "It's going to be challenging, that's for sure."
But it's not all about packing enough underwear. Winter coats and tuques share suitcase space with shorts and sandals.
"Usually I pack five minutes before we take off," said Mikael Samuelsson. "Not for this trip. You've got to do some thinking before it. It's going to be a big bag for sure."
And a big impact on the Canucks' success, said centre Ryan Kesler, who'll play for Team USA while Canuck teammates holiday with their families in Hawaii during the Olympics.
A 'make or break' road trip: Kesler
"It's going to be one of those [road trips] that will make or break our season probably," said Kesler. "It's been in the back of our minds all year."
Glass, who got a seven-hanger suit bag for his birthday, still wasn't sure how to prepare.
"If I knew, I think our road record (10-11-1) would be a little better."
The Canucks also packed a six-game win streak, the longest in three years, after Wednesday's 3-2 triumph over St. Louis.
They lead the NHL with 23 home victories, are atop the Northwest Division and rank third in the West entering Thursday's schedule.
"I like the way we're playing right now," said Daniel Sedin, whose identical twin Henrik has a league-leading 76 points.
"We play a system that will suit us well on the road so we should be fine."
Since Daniel returned Dec. 18 from a broken foot, the Sedins and Burrows have sparked the Canucks to a 4-1-1 road mark.
Vancouver plays eight games in 18 days before the Olympic break and six games in 12 days after the Feb. 28 closing ceremonies.
By the time the Canucks get to Phoenix for the last game March 10, it'll be the Coyotes waiting and 1,976 kilometres to their own beds. After the Maple Leafs, it's on to Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Tampa Bay, Florida, Columbus and Minnesota. Six games in this segment are against Eastern Conference clubs where Vancouver has a 9-1 record.
"It seems we play well against all of those teams," said Burrows. "[The eastern teams] play a little bit more of a wide-open system, more flow compared to the West but as long as we play well defensively we know we're going to get our chances."
Even more travelling for non-Olympians
When the club returns Vancouver after the Minnesota game, Olympians will join their national teams while the others holiday in Hawaii before a mini-camp starts Feb. 24.
The saga continues in Columbus before the Games end with more preparation for the March 2 date with the Blue Jackets.
That's too bad for defenceman Willie Mitchell who won a lottery to purchase tickets for the men's gold medal hockey game.
Canuck Olympians get the full Games experience before joining their teammates in Columbus.
Then it's Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Colorado and Phoenix before the Canucks play 10 of their last 15 games at home. The club will be in south Florida on Super Bowl weekend, a chance for a team function.
"I'm sure guys will miss their family and kids but it'll be fun to get on the road with the boys and some good team dinners," said defenceman Shane O'Brien.
Hordichuk might buy another suitcase and more clothes during the trip.
"My wife always laughs when I pack 20 pairs of underwear and I come back home and 19 of them are untouched." he said.
Coach Alain Vigneault downplayed the road grind after the St. Louis win.
"It's just a road trip and we'll be fine," he said. "See you in six weeks."