Pete DeBoer knows he had it good in New Jersey.
He coached 41 games at home with the Devils, eight to 10 “road” games in New York City and 12 to 15 a short train or plane ride away in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
Then he started coaching in the Western Conference and discovered how the other half lives. Long trips around the country. Constant time zone changes. A lot of late nights in airplanes.
This season, because of the coronavirus pandemic, DeBoer and the Golden Knights will get at least a slight break from that. The NHL’s new schedule format for this season features only division games and no “one-and-dones,” meaning teams will play each other at least twice before moving on to their next opponent. That will drastically reduce travel and provide respite for players who need to get through 56 games in 116 days.
“Until you coach in this conference, you don’t realize the disadvantage some teams are at with the travel and the number of time zones that we change on a yearly basis,” DeBoer said. “I think everybody out here is excited about the fact that that field’s going to be a little bit more level.”
The schedule means the Knights won’t have to travel three time zones east during the regular season. They will travel two time zones for their four road games at Minnesota and four at St. Louis.
Their other trips are to Anaheim, California; Denver; Glendale, Arizona; Los Angeles; and San Jose, California. All are reachable within 1½ hours by plane. The Knights don’t have to worry about international travel because Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver are no longer in their division.
“It’s going to be different,” right wing Mark Stone said. “In this situation, I think limiting travel is going to be big because you’re playing such a condensed schedule.”
The difference should be substantial for the Knights.
In the team’s last full season in 2018-19, it made approximately 56 trips in 185 days and traveled 46,821 miles by air. That means they went about 836 miles per trip and 253 miles per schedule day.
Those numbers will be reduced this season. The Knights are projected to make 21 trips over 116 days and travel 14,522 miles via plane. That works out to going 692 miles per trip and 127 miles per schedule day.
In other words, the team will be traveling less and flying shorter distances. The Knights should be hopping on a plane about every 5.5 days this season, compared with once every 3.3 days during a normal year.
That should help the players’ rest and recovery during a grueling sprint through the schedule.
“I think the first two months we’re playing every other day, which is hard,” right wing Ryan Reaves said. “It is hard on the body. But you take away a little of that travel, you take away the fact that after a game you’re jumping right on a plane and traveling to a different city and getting in late, I think it’ll even out a little bit.”
Golden Knights travel comparison
(All figures approximate)
2018-19 (185 days)
Air miles: 46,821
Miles/schedule day: 253
2021 (114 days)
Air miles: 14,522
Miles/schedule day: 127