Patrick Kane was trying to remember his first Circus Trip with the Blackhawks.
“I couldn’t really tell you what happened,” Kane said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure that I struggled on it. It’s something I had not really been through before. It was a different one, that’s for sure.”
Kane’s right about that 2007-08 Circus Trip, his first. He did struggle on it, getting just one point (vs. Nashville in a 5-4 overtime loss). And much like several Blackhawks rookies now, the biggest adjustment was going on a trip that long and playing in that may games in a short amount of time.
But for the players who are going on this trip for the first – and at least in its present form, last time – it’s not so bad. It’s a big traveling adventure, with a few hockey games thrown in for good measure. And while we talk about the bonding that goes on with this trip every season, there’s a reason for that: it really helps.
“It’s kind of fun to get away and hang out with the team and get to know the guys a little bit more. You get to see different cities,” Nick Schmaltz said. “It’s a little different than college, being on the road, but we get treated so well.”
We’re past the midway point of this trip but for the Blackhawks who are new to this trek, it’s been a good one. And while they’re not used to lengthy travel, it’s not really disrupting a thing.
“If anything we’re more focused because there are less distractions,” Vinnie Hinostroza said. “When we’re at home everybody’s got families, girlfriends, wives, all that. When we’re on the road it’s just the team.”
Hinostroza has been on a long road trip before – last season the Rockford IceHogs were in Texas for the first nine days of December. But on that excursion, the IceHogs to Cedar Park and San Antonio (by the way, those cities are about 90 minutes apart by car). Jumping from various cities over Western Canada and California is different, but Hinostroza feels more part of the team because of it.
“It’s been really good. I’ve gotten to know more guys more than I already did,” he said. “For me, it’s been a beneficial road trip.”
Still, this is a very busy playing schedule. Through this trip the Blackhawks will play seven games over 13 days. For the veteran Blackhawks, this is nothing new. But if you’re not used to that – European league schedules are nothing close to the NHL’s 82-game season – it can have its effect.
“I think my body’s feeling pretty good. It’s more mental, playing so many games in a few days,” said Gustav Forsling. “That’s something that’s been hard.”
Fans are probably thrilled that the Blackhawks won’t be booted out of Chicago by the circus every fall – although, as Brent Seabrook quipped, “the schedule makers could still give us a two-week trip in November.” This trip has nevertheless been very beneficial to the Blackhawks. They’re usually successful on it, although this season’s trip has been so-so thus far. But given the turnover they’ve usually had the past few seasons, this trip has been a great opportunity for new players – be it those in the system or veteran acquisitions – to get to know each other better.
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The rookies are learning a lot this season, be it how to develop on the ice or how to handle the schedule off it. This trip has helped them with both.
“Some of these young guys have been some of our best players as of late. They’re creating a lot, they’re getting adjusted more to the NHL and the speed of the game and even the intensity,” Kane said. “It’s a tough schedule playing on the road for two weeks. There’s a lot of late nights where you’re getting into the hotel at 1, 2, 3 a.m. A lot of flights. You’re living out of a suitcase for two weeks, and not in the same place. It’s a pretty tough schedule for us, but at the same time I think the young guys have done a really good job.”