Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Perfect NHL Road Trip

The NHL came out with their schedule last week and I quickly put together the usual roadtrip spreadsheet that shows each team's home games in roughly the same order that one would make a roundtrip journey. This way, you can quickly see when nearby teams play back-to-back and which teams are away for extended periods (the bane of the roadtrip planner), making it much easier to put together a plan.

There are countless possibilities for league-wide trips that take in all 30 arenas, it just depends on where and when you want to start. Rather than bore you with a randomly generated trip, I decided to see if I could create the "perfect" NHL roadtrip. A perfect roadtrip is one where not only each arena is seen, but each team is seen exactly twice - once at home and once on the road. This is trivial to do if you are flying, but if you want to stick to the road, it becomes quite difficult to find a sensible route. There are only 41 home games per season and finding a string of nearby games with different visiting teams is much harder than it sounds. But after a few hours of playing around, I came up with the following, starting with the new Jets visiting the old Jets in Phoenix:
Oct 15 Winnipeg Jets at Phoenix Coyotes 5:00
Oct 16 St. Louis Blues at Anaheim Ducks 5:00
Oct 17 Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks 7:30
Oct 18 New York Rangers at Vancouver Canucks 7:00
Oct 20 Minnesota Wild at Edmonton Oilers 7:30
Oct 22 Carolina Hurricanes at Winnipeg Jets 6:00
Oct 28 San Jose Sharks at Detroit Red Wings 7:30
Oct 29 Detroit Red Wings at Minnesota Wild 7:00
Nov 10 Chicago Blackhawks at Columbus Blue Jackets 7:00
Nov 12 Buffalo Sabres at Boston Bruins 7:00
Nov 15 Colorado Avalanche at Pittsburgh Penguins 7:00
Nov 16 New Jersey Devils at Buffalo Sabres 7:30
Nov 23 Vancouver Canucks at Colorado Avalanche 7:00
Nov 29 Nashville Predators at Calgary Flames 7:00
Dec 2 New York Islanders at Chicago Blackhawks 7:30
Dec 5 Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators 7:30
Dec 6 Columbus Blue Jackets at Montreal Canadiens 7:30
Dec 10 Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders 7:00
Dec 11 Florida Panthers at New York Rangers 7:00
Dec 13 Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals 7:00
Dec 16 Dallas Stars at New Jersey Devils 7:00
Dec 17 Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers 1:00
Dec 19 Los Angeles Kings at Toronto Maple Leafs 7:00
Dec 23 Ottawa Senators at Carolina Hurricanes 7:00
Dec 27 Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers 7:30
Dec 29 Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning 7:30
Jan 1 Calgary Flames at Nashville Predators 5:00
Jan 3 Phoenix Coyotes at St. Louis Blues 7:00
Jan 7 Edmonton Oilers at Dallas Stars 1:00
Jan 9 Washington Capitals at Los Angeles Kings 7:30
The trip starts with a lot of driving, going from Phoenix to Winnipeg in just a week before a break. There are a few back-to-back games with drives exceeding 10 hours with San Jose to Vancouver being the longest at 16 hours. That would be extremely tough to make by oneself when you factor it time at the border, but it can be done if you get a few hours on the road after the game.

There are some interesting games as well. The Flames at Nashville is the only New Year's contest on the schedule and would be a rematch of the Predators visit to Calgary just over a month earlier. The Sharks/Red Wings and Bruins/Flyers are good rivalries stoked by the just-completed playoffs. Five of the last seven games would see Canadian teams on the road around the holidays, so there should be a lot of fellow roadtrippers at those tilts. You'd spend Christmas in Miami and watch the Leafs two days later.

There is a lot of backtracking on this trip, particularly those two trips from Alberta to the east coast. Overall, you'd be looking at about 20,000 miles of highway driving compared to around 12,500 for a trip that goes in one direction. The trip is 87 days long so you'd be averaging 225 miles per day, with a number of very long drives. You'd miss most of the bad weather by starting early in the season, but there'd be a few chilly days in December. There's also the general issue of snowstorms, this sort of trip has little room for weather problems.

I think you can play with the schedule a bit to make it more efficient but it would result in more days on the road. Whatever the case, it is always fun to think about these trips, even if they are pretty much impossible. When the AHL releases their schedule, I'll try the same for them.



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