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BLADEOFSTEEL  /  NHL  /  NEWS

Chris Pronger shares incredible insight into the challenges players face with travel

Published April 26, 2022 at 11:55
BY JOSH

Chris Pronger is a retired NHL defenseman, who played 1,167 games in the NHL before having his career derailed by injury. Recently Pronger has taken to Twitter to share some of the challenges faced by NHLers along their journey.

Today Pronger took to Twitter to share the following thread about the challenges players face with travel.

Something most people have no idea about that is a huge part of being a professional athlete: TRAVEL!

It can be a lot of fun but really tough on the body!


Here's what traveling was like over the course of my 20 years in the NHL!

My rookie season in 1993 we flew commercial and of course, being a rookie, I was tasked with getting a middle seat most of the time.

We typically only flew on private charters for back to back game nights.

Otherwise I was sandwiched in the middle seat! LOL

Here is an example of the flights from Hartford:

Get on the plane in Hartford and squeeze into a middle seat for leg 1 to Chicago where we had a layover and plane change.

Get onto next flight from Chicago to Edmonton and yes once again I would fold myself into a middle seat!

Those travel days were typically an all day event and also remember we were traveling with all our equipment too.

That took up a lot of cargo space on the plane.

Sometimes there were some unhappy passengers whose luggage didn't make it on the plane due to space and capacity.

It was pretty funny seeing 25 athletes cruising through the airport, much like the scene from the movie «For Love of the Game» with Kevin Costner.

All eyes were on us as we strolled to our gate. As you might imagine we had some rather large players on our team.

Being one of those larger players and watching others passengers stare as I was crammed into my middle seat, I am sure was quite amusing to them

At 6'6» and 220 it was a tight squeeze. More on how we fixed this later in the tweet.

By 2011, my last season in Philadelphia, we were flying around on Charter planes that were outfitted with first class seats and card tables.

Definitely a welcome change and something that allowed us to recover better and faster.

Travel in the Eastern Conference was light years better than the Western Conference.

After playing in Philadelphia, I am not sure there is a better located city in the NHL for travel.

We would take an Amtrak train to NYC & Washington.

A bus to Newark to play the Devils.

A 45 min flight to Pittsburgh and maybe a 20 min flight to Long Island to play the Islanders.

In bed most nights no later than 1AM.

Now compare that to playing in Anaheim. Whew!

We would routinely return from a road game at 2AM-3AM into LAX due air curfew rules at John Wayne Airport (11pm). After landing we'd take a bus back to the Honda Center where we would then get into our cars and get home from there.

Not ideal for rest and recovery! This map really tells the story with the density of most of the Eastern Conference teams being located in the northeast.

image

Delta had a pretty sweet fleet of planes just for Sports teams to charter.

The LA Kings, LA Lakers, LA Clippers also used them.

They used a private airport at LAX to fly out of. It was a great set up for us to travel in and out of.

Those plane rides are also some of the fondest memories I have from my playing career.

So many laughs and great conversations with teammates, coaches and yes even the media!

In St Louis we used TWA before they were bought by American.

Those old TWA planes were just normal planes.

So, we'd bring a wrench + screwdriver with us to unscrew the seats so that we could stretch our legs out.

That was our way of sitting in first class!

A mechanic would come on and help us out on a few of the flights when they caught on to what we were doing and tightened up the screws super tight so we couldn't undo them.

I always found it funny that we wore suits into the arena and out of the arenas and then changed into shorts and a t-shirt once we got onto the plane.

Biz casual took on a whole new meaning!

Coaches were always at the front of the plane followed by the trainers, media and rookies (young guys) and then the veterans were near the back of the plane or bus.

As time has passed the travel has gotten much easier with charter flights and what not.

One thing that hasn't is getting in and out of the airport.

Pre 9/11 we wouldn't even go through security. We could just drove up to the plane. Great time saver.

Post 9/11 we would have to be screened before getting onto any flight. Typically this was done plane side or at the Arena after the game.

The hardest part of traveling: what it did to our bodies.

Time changes, jet lag, sitting for a long time – doesn't sound hard, but it really added up.

When you are on a 4-5 game roadtrip over the course of 8-9 days very rarely are you staying in a city longer than 48 hrs.

Our coaches could easily tell if we were tired from playing and would do give days off or manage our workload.

Teams are constantly just trying to get to the next city. Recovery is critical as the season progresses and teams will alter the travel schedule if the team is tired.


This is a great insight into the struggles players go through on the road that the general public is usually unaware of.
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