I’m writing this from 36,000 feet in the air. Today our crew flies with the Islanders to Minnesota to continue their longest road trip of the season. These long trips are not as daunting as they may seem. Yes, we all miss sleeping in our own beds and seeing our family. But long road trips are also a chance to simplify your life. The focus is on hockey and maybe a little city exploring along the way. Long road trips are also a good test for teams. With the Isles making a push towards the playoffs this trip is especially important.
Our first stop is St. Paul, Minnesota. As the Minnesota guys boarded the plane this afternoon there was a little extra pep in their step. Brock Nelson and Nick Leddy couldn’t hold back smiles. I stopped Nelson on his way to the back of the plane, “Hey Brock can I ask you a quick…..” “Yea, Jeri will be there…she’s excited too,” he responded. I was going to ask him about his packing list for the trip but he knows how much I enjoy seeing his mom and figured that was the direction I was going. More on the travel packing in just a bit.
Going to Minnesota is always fun. Kyle Okposo grew up just minutes away from Xcel Energy Center. Anders Lee, Nick Leddy and Brock Nelson will all be playing in front of friends and family too. With the Isles only making one visit to Western Conference teams each regular season, the players really look forward to the trip.
After the Isles play the Wild on Tuesday night, the Canadian adventure begins. Last year was my first time to Western Canada. My mom thought I should wear the long fur coat passed down from my grandma. I did, and we had so many laughs about that coat on the trip my stomach hurt for days. After the first two games, the players would jokingly stroke the mink coat when I walked down the aisle of the plane. It was lucky early in the trip and beyond necessary in Winnipeg. Our producer Jim thought it would be really fun for me to stand at the coldest crossroads in the country. We did the open of the show from Portage and Main and I’m pretty sure my face was frozen through the first period.
Another one of my favorite things about my first extended Canadian trip was a story we did about the players and things they can’t live without on the road. There is definitely a range of packers on the Isles. Some players like Johnny Boychuk show up with 2 or 3 bags for the 11-day trip. Others just have a carry-on. By far my favorite person to talk to about packing for trips is Eric Boulton. It’s a pretty common conversation piece several times throughout the season.
Today when I got on the plane Eric was the first player to arrive. He was carrying a camouflage backpack. That was it. I joked that he must have a rollaboard under the plane. He then ran through his packing list with me. 1 suit, 3 dress shirts, 4 ties, dress shoes, sweat pants, 2 t-shirts, and 10 pairs of underwear. Oh, he brought a toothbrush too. Talk about a light packer! Bolton explained that he’s a big fan of rolling everything to fit neatly into his backpack. He also learned to pack the bare essentials when he was a rookie in Buffalo. He told me a great story about Rob Ray when they played together for the Sabres. Ray would get on the plane in a black suit, black t-shirt and a toothbrush in his suit jacket pocket.
For the record, I have one suitcase on this trip. It’s definitely over the 50-pound commercial flying weight limit but my bag is not the biggest to come off the plane. Also, this season I have upgraded from my 1960s Mad Men look to fit in with the rest of the Canadians in Roots gear. I’ll test it out when we spend four days in Calgary. I’m really hoping to visit the picturesque town of Banff. Make sure to read my blog next week for an update on that adventure.