Helene St. James Detroit Free Press
Published 4:40 PM EST Nov 16, 2018
OTTAWA, Ont. — On the Detroit Red Wings’ schedule: A matinee at New Jersey. Also: two bus rides and two plane rides to travel around 300 miles.
The Wings prepared for Saturday’s game against the Devils mid-morning Friday at Canadian Tire Centre, less than 12 hours after a 2-1 loss there to the Senators. Plans to fly from Ottawa to Newark, New Jersey on Thursday night were waylaid by inclement weather, forcing a quick rescheduling.
“You travel lots, you’re going to have some weather issues,” coach Jeff Blashill said Friday. “We had a real unknown on what time we’d be able to get in to the gate, so we decided to stay, which creates its own issue. We’ll be fine. We’ll get in for dinner time and be ready to go tomorrow.”
There had been talk of flying back to Detroit after Thursday’s game, but that didn’t pan out. Instead, the Wings were scheduled to spend Friday bussing to Ottawa’s airport, flying to Albany, New York, to clear U.S. Customs, flying on to White Plains, New York, and bussing to their hotel in Jersey City. Their game is 1 p.m. Saturday.
“All I care about is that that plane takes off and that plane lands on the ground,” Blashill said. “And that we’re ready to play a hockey game.”
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Some players skated, others worked out in the hallway outside the visitors room. Blashill said everyone who played Thursday is available, and that Jacob de la Rose (upper body) is a possibility.
This trip will have the Wings check in and out of hotels more times than usual for a two-game affair: Twice in Ottawa, twice in New Jersey. The latter is because the Wings are staying overnight Saturday, since players wanted to have the annual rookie dinner in New York City. Some staff looked into flying home commercially Saturday evening only to find there wasn’t a late enough direct flight. Instead, there will be another night in a third hotel.
“Guys are going to take advantage of break in the schedule and have an opportunity to stay in New York and have a team dinner,” Blashill said. “The schedule is such it didn’t present a very good opportunity until late, late, late in the year and at that point the year is over and what’s the point? So, it’s way better to do it earlier. The other thing is, we don’t play again until Wednesday, so this gave us a good opportunity to do that.”
It’s rare for the Wings to have their travel disrupted. Kronwall had to think all the way back to November of 2007, when their pilot misjudged a turn on a runway and the plane ended up stuck in mud. Blashill, who coached at the college and AHL level, said, “the ones that are the hardest are the ones that are the scariest — when you’re on a bus and it’s icy out, stuff like that. This is nothing, this is just a slight, slight inconvenience.”
It was a bit more than just a slight inconvenience to suddenly find around 50 rooms at one hotel (for players, coaching staff, trainers and other team personnel. Some had to double up).
“I offered,” Blashill said. “Nobody wanted to sleep with me.”
More on rookie dinner
Thomas Vanek (knee) is flying to New Jersey to join the party. Evgeny Svechnikov is also on the trip, even though he’s out for the season after undergoing knee surgery in October. He joins rookies Michael Rasmussen and Dennis Cholowski.
Rookie dinners are a hallowed tradition, offering an opportunity to bond.
“Anytime you have a gathering with the guys, you just come together even more,” veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “You get to know each other a little bit more. It’s always a good time. You can never go wrong when you get together with 20-something other guys in the same room.”
Do the Wings think of team dietitian Lisa McDowell before they order?
“Regardless if Lisa puts something together or not, it will be somewhat similar because guys like to eat a certain way. So I don’t think we’ll be too much off the boards from what we eat regularly.
“I think that used to be the case back in the days with expensive bottles of wine and steaks and whatever it was. Now you get together and enjoy a great meal, but it won’t be something extraordinary. We will go to a nice place, there’s no doubt about that, but we’re fortunate enough to go to good restaurants all the time.”
Contact Helene St. James: [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.