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Checking in From St. Petersburg

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

Greetings from Russia, where the Hurricanes have just checked in to their hotel in the heart of St. Petersburg (so says our bus driver – I have yet to confirm).

Click here for photos from the Hurricanes' arrival in Russia

Paul Branecky
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We’ve just arrived after a long but not too difficult flight over the Atlantic. Our plane took off from Raleigh at 6 p.m. – just two hours after the exhibition win against Atlanta – and stopped briefly in Halifax, Nova Scotia before making the jump across the pond. We landed in St. Petersburg at approximately 1 p.m. local time, which equates to 3 a.m. back home.

During the flight, players were strongly encouraged (I’m not clear if they had a choice) of when to eat and rest in order to minimize the effects of jet lag. Lights were out as soon as we left Halifax, with everyone roused to eat breakfast a few hours later on St. Petersburg time. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I actually feel pretty good right now, so maybe there’s something to the regimented routine.

Upon arrival we went through customs, where our passports were taken and not given back. Upon our requests to keep them, we were met with a polite smile and wave to move on through the process. Hopefully we make it to Helsinki on time.

Russian media was there to greet the players, with Eric Staal and Anton Babchuk getting the one-one-one treatment while teammates heckled from the nearby buses (which I believe you can see in the background of the Staal photos. The press needed no introduction to Babchuk, but upon being told that the tall blond fellow was Eric Staal, they said something along the lines of “Hey! We know!” 

Photos from our bus ride can be found in the attached gallery. Among the highlights was the driver, Andrei, telling us that the dreary day is somewhat typical of the local weather.

”You can see the normal color of the sky,” he said in a thick Russian accent that had hints of Borat in it. “It is really grey.”

We also saw the Victory Monument to the siege of Leningrad (which it was then called) in World War II, the national library, the statue of Katherine the Great in front of a prominent performing arts hall and a building called Stroganoff Palace (“I am sure you know of beef stroganoff,” said Andrei).

After the 30-minute ride (there was some traffic at the end, producing another great line from Andrei: "the problem is cars"), everyone’s bags seemed to arrive safe and sound. There were a few reps from Red Bull waiting for us, and since we all wore matching Hurricanes track suits on the plane, one of them apparently mistook me for a player. If anyone finds a photo of me taking a swig on the Russian Red Bull Web site (they insisted), please let me know.

Now we’re off for a walking tour of the city, and I believe the players have a scheduled off-ice workout before too long. I’ll have more updates and photos later tonight.

UPDATE: The gallery has been updated with more photos and captions for all.  The brisk team walk, led by Pete Friesen, served as the scheduled off-ice workout after the long trip.  On the street, people definitely recognized the logos on the jumpsuits - I heard more than one passer-by say "Car-o-LEE-na," as the pointed and explained to friends.

I'll update again from tomorrow's practice.

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