Flames refuse to use ‘weird schedule’ as excuse

NHL insider Chris Johnston and Shawn McKenzie get us set for Flames-Maple Leafs, where they discuss who will get the biggest bump in minutes with the long-term absence to forward Auston Matthews.

TORONTO – Over his 13 years as a Calgary Flame, Mark Giordano cannot recall a road schedule quite like the continental crisscrossing the club is in the middle of now.

Once they wrap their back-to-back roadie versus the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday and Buffalo Sabres Tuesday, the not-so-favourable schedule gods will have forced the Flames to flip from Mountain Time to Eastern Time to Mountain Time to Eastern Time back to Mountain Time all within 12 nights’ sleep — if you can get it.

Timewise, that’s not exactly standard.

“No,” Giordano says of this mini eastern business trip. “Not this quick. Within a couple weeks, right? We’re on this one for four or six games usually. We came out to play Montreal and New York [Oct. 21 and 23], and then we’re in a back-to-back. It’s a little bit different for us. It’s a bit of a weird schedule.”

Of the 31 NHL clubs, none will cover more distance to squeeze in their 82 games in 2018-19 than Calgary, slated to log 84,882 kilometres. Tuesday’s opponent, Buffalo, has the lightest travel at 51,915.

Even if your seat reclines all the way and your champagne is gratis, that’s a significant disparity — and that figure does not include the Flames and Bruins’ preseason voyage to China, the one time Giordano admits jet leg got the best of him.

“There are guys who feel it more than others. It affects their sleep, the time difference,” Giordano explains. “There are nights where you fall asleep later, but you still try to get seven or eight hours in.”

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On the flip side, Buffalo is among the leaders in those dreaded back-to-backs, with 16 (Florida and Carolina are tied for tops with 17), while the Flames have just 10 back-to-backs, tied with the league low.

To Johnny Gaudreau’s mild chagrin.

“I like back-to-back games,” says Johnny Hockey, who’s still adjusting to life on a Western team since moving from New Jersey.

“As the years go on, I think I’ve gotten better at it. But still, it’s a lot of hours on the plane, switching time zones. It’s difficult sometimes, but it’s part of it.”

Perhaps no Flame has had his eyes opened by the realities of Pacific Division trekking more than Travis Hamonic, whose first seven NHL seasons were spent in the cozy Metropolitan Division.

Last season, Hamonic’s first in Calgary, the Flames ranked second only to Nashville in air miles, journeying 77,137 kilometres in 2017-18 — or 16,246 more than he would’ve travelled had he not been traded from the New York Islanders.

“You play on the Island and everything is close — train rides, car rides, some buses. Quick. It was kinda different at the start,” Hamonic said. “You’ve gotta get used to the time change and the longer flights.”

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Maybe we should check back in April, but you won’t catch the road-weary Flames (2-2 away from the Saddledome) complaining about jet lag yet.

“If everybody could have their perfect schedule, you would never work,” Matthew Tkachuk reasons. “It’s definitely [a lot of] travel. It wears on you. But the way we travel, it should never be an excuse. We travel great. We’re very lucky with the stuff we have access to.”

Hamonic — not a man to take anything for granted — waxes on about how gracious everyone is with their time to ease all the average-joe travel burdens: hauling baggage, fighting over armrests, munching stale pretzels, shaking your fist at that toddler in 22F.

Even the roadiest road team knows how good they have it.

“The amount of work that gets put in in the background is great, the meals we eat on the plane are unbelievable, we get first-class hotels all the way. There’s definitely no excuses on that end,” Hamonic says.

Giordano not only echoes that sentiment, the veteran has grown to savour these getaways with the boys.

“Being in the West, you get used to it. Honestly, it becomes kinda enjoyable, being around the guys, playing cards. The boys are playing euchre a lot these days,” the captain says. “You’re on the plane for a few hours, get a good meal and a good movie in, and you’re fine.”

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