Brian Boyle playfully described the Penguins’ flight to Calgary on Sunday to kick off the team’s four games in western North America this week.
“It’s nice to get together, get on the bird, check in and go to dinner if you can,” the veteran Penguins forward told media in Calgary on Monday. “It’s a big part of this game. It’s a big part of this life.
For much of the past 21 months, the lives of hockey players have been restricted in terms of movement and even opponents. Especially during the 2020-21 campaign.
Last season, with heavy travel restrictions still in place between the United States and Canada due to the pandemic, the NHL adopted a division-only format that resulted in three eight-team divisions and a fourth – composed entirely Canadian franchises – with seven teams.
With travel restrictions relaxed, the NHL has returned to its typical 82-game format which involves a different opponent in every game.
Like their current trip.
For the first time since crossing California in February 2020, the Penguins are west of the Mississippi River this week as their “bird” – a chartered Boeing 737-800 – takes them to Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Seattle in the meantime. eight days.
Unless postponed for factors like covid-19, there isn’t a two-game, same-city “streak” on the Penguins’ schedule this season.
“I thought it was a great format,” said coach Mike Sullivan recently. “It reduces travel. It is easier for the athletes because the trips are less frequent. I really like it. Back to back games, emotions are linked. This creates small mini series or mini rivalries. I really like it. I found it to be a good format.
“I liked it. I know people are sitting on both sides of an opinion point of view, but I thought it was a really attractive format.
This might be more attractive than practical in the context of an 82-game format. In reality, the only series the NHL could schedule would involve division opponents and perhaps a handful of conference opponents.
Additionally, many NHL buildings house NBA teams or other entertainment options such as concerts or professional wrestling.
But it wouldn’t be impossible for the Penguins to spend a few days in Manhattan and face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in two straight games. Or for the Rangers to spend a few days in Pittsburgh for a pair of contests in the PPG Paints Arena.
Penguins see the pros and cons of each schedule structure.
“I guess the regular format is kind of what we’re used to,” said forward Bryan Rust. “It’s fun to see a new opponent every night. In these series-like formats, it’s hard to beat a team two nights in a row. I saw this in college hockey when I was there (at Notre Dame). You saw him last year. It’s hard to win two nights in a row against a team. But the advantage of these series (format) is that there is much less travel. You kind of stay in a city for a few days and can sleep in the same bed for a few days and get acclimated. It was definitely an advantage.
Adopting such a format for 82 games is simply not an option. But implementing a part in a practical way is viable.
And desired, by some.
“Yeah, I liked it,” said forward Sidney Crosby. “A little less travel. Just be familiar with the team you are playing. You play them a few times in a row, I think that just adds to the intensity. Those two things, whether it’s the game itself or (being) a little easier with the travel… if that works, I would definitely be up for it.