Gentlemen of the Toronto Marlies, the world is yours.
Or more precisely, Abbotsford B.C, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
The Marlies will be on the road for two weeks while the Ricoh Coliseum is turned over to the Royal Winter Fair, an agricultural institution that gives new meaning to the term “hockey barn.”
The Royal is 90 years old, 83 years older than the Marlies. You may not cotton to a two-week road trip but you can’t dispute the cows were there first.
Factor in the process of returning ice to Ricoh and the Marlies won’t play at home again until November 17 against Hamilton. That’s 22 days and one presidential election between home dates.
The junket has come to be known as the Royal road trip which fits for a 10,000 km excursion that is the equivalent of a road swing to London, England and back.
“I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun at the beginning but then it gets to be a grind being on the road that long,” said rookie Greg McKegg. “My roommate Jerry D’Amigo has helped me prepare. I had no idea how to pack.”
With the exception of sleepy Abbotsford, the initial stop on the road swing, the cities are big enough that Mike Zigomanis, the team’s unofficial lifestyle coach and practicing vegan has an app he can use to locate suitable vegetarian restaurants.
“A trip like this is great for team chemistry and bonding but you have to watch your diet. You need the proper rest,” Zigomanis said.
Luckily for players and coaches, road trips aren’t always as boring as they sound but you get the idea that hockey players have less fun than the people who cover them.
“The longest flight in the KHL was 11 hours,” said 25-year-old Leo Komarov, an Estonian-born Finn who spent his last three years with Moscow Dynamo. “The longest road trip would only be a week or so.
“With a trip like this, you have to worry about three things: play, eat, sleep.”
Any business traveler knows from rueful experience the probability of getting a reasonable apple in an airport.
“We’ve got our meals set up as a team but we’ve also got great leadership, guys who are committed to fueling their bodies right,” said coach Dallas Eakins. “Our younger guys will take note of that.”