BERN, Switzerland --Their legs were weary and their eyes droopy. If given the choice, the New York Rangers would have picked a soft bed instead of the cold ice, pajamas instead of smelly hockey equipment.
Oh how sweet a warm comforter would have felt!
Well, they didn’t have the choice. The mandate came from coach Tom Renney. On the ice, boys, it’s the only way to fight off jet lag, to get used to this new time zone that is six hours ahead of what they’ve been training in for the last two weeks.
Following their hard 90-minute practice at PostFinance Arena late Sunday afternoon, the Rangers, dragging even more now, still felt good about what they had just done.
“I think this was good for us, to sweat a little bit and to get the legs going,” forward Markus Naslund said. “It looked decent for flying all night.”
The Rangers left Newark Liberty International Airport at 7 p.m. Saturday and arrived in Basel, Switzerland at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, local time. It was a seven-hour flight through six time zones.
From Basel, the team had to bus an hour to their hotel in Bern, so it wasn’t until 10:30 a.m. that the Rangers finally arrived at the Hotel Bellevue Palace. They were at the rink three hours later and on the ice by 3 p.m.
No rest for the weary, not when you’re coach is as spry as a kid on a sugar high.
“I feel great. I could coach tonight,” Renney said with a giddy smile. “The trick is to get your sleep on the plane, but before you leave you have to drink water, you’ve got to hydrate. When you get on the plane the key is to get enough sleep, even if it’s sporadic, but enough rest to when you get here you’re able to participate as we did in a pretty hard practice. I think that helps, too.”
Renney said he wanted the team on the ice Sunday afternoon for two reasons.
“Blow out the pipes, quite honestly, but also to pay attention to the little things in our game,” the coach said. “Any time you get a chance to get on the ice with your team, and that’s finally why we are here because this was really the first practice we had with 26 guys. We get to pay attention to some of the finer details of our game. That should be a benefit for us (Tuesday).”
Since most players got at least a couple of hours of sleep on the plane and some decided to nap for an hour after checking into the hotel, they said they felt as fresh as could be expected.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist said he was able to sleep nearly the entire flight and he still said he felt tired after practice. That, though, had more to do with combining the hard workout with a long night of flying.
“I tried to sleep the whole way, but not heavily,” Lundqvist said. “It was still probably the best flight I have had overseas. It went really fast. We will sleep even better tonight after getting out there and getting a really good skate.”
The plans for Sunday night included a team meal followed by nothing. That’s right, nothing. But in order to get their body clocks in the right time zone, most of the Rangers said they planned to stay up as long as they possibly could despite not having anything planned.
“I’ll try to push it a little longer and I don’t think it’ll be too hard,” defenseman Wade Redden said. “I just went without sleep so I can power through today and hopefully be on track tomorrow.”
Added Renney: “I’ll stay up and watch video to prepare for (Monday). I will stay up as late as I can. I don’t sleep very long as it is anyway, so whatever it is I hope to sleep soundly.”
Blair Betts hopes he can be in that group that stays up as late as possible, but considering he didn’t sleep that well on the plane and didn’t nap before practice Betts doesn’t expect to be awake for the 10 o’clock news.
“Once we get dinner I’m sure it’ll be lights out soon after that,” Betts said. “I am trying to tough it out for the first day so hopefully I can keep my eyes open until about 9 o’clock. I know some guys took a nap, and hopefully they’ll be able to fall asleep. I think the best way is to tough it out for the first day.”
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