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I'm Never Flying Commercial Again

by Jesse D. Eisenberg / New York Islanders

With NHL newcomers Mikko Koskinen and Joel Martin aboard yesterday’s flight to Montreal, I think that now is as good a time as ever to write the obligatory “charter planes are awesome” post. Here’s a look at what the pair experienced on their first big league road trip.

On a typical trip, the team arrives at the airport about fifteen minutes before takeoff, breezes through security in seconds, and walks about 20 feet to the plane. (Sounds just like flying out of JFK, right?)

Once on board, the first thing you see is a table of snacks at the front of the plane. The spread includes sandwiches, fruit, cheese, chips, nuts and granola bars. There’s also an appetizer, such as sushi, shrimp cocktail, quesadillas or chicken fingers. First timers like Mikko and Joel usually think that the snack table constitutes their meal, but it doesn’t take them long to see why their new teammates call the NHL the “Never Hungry League.”

Beyond the snack table is row after row of first class style seating: oversized chairs that are outfitted with blue and orange napkins, bottled water and a menu with three dinner options. There’s usually some sort of seafood, a chicken or beef, and a pasta dish. All meals are served with a house salad.

Once dinner is out of the way, passengers settle into their in-flight routines. Coaches pop open laptops to break down video, trainers walk the aisles to distribute medication and ice bags, and the MSG+ crew (Howie Rose and Butch Goring included) bickers loudly about the day’s sporting news.

As for the team, the players fall into one of three categories during the flight: the sleepers, the poker players, and the videogamers. The cross-aisle poker game features Zenon Konopka, PA Parenteau, Rob Schremp and Rick DiPietro, along with whoever else the foursome can con into joining the high-stakes game. Bruno Gervais, Andrew MacDonald and Josh Bailey make up the PSP videogame crew, while Trevor Gillies, Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo prefer their iPads/iPhones. Nearly everyone else on the team dozes off to a movie or book (both new guys took this rout).

Whichever activity you choose, you can count on being interrupted by the crew on two occasions. First up is a tray of fresh baked cookies and milk. Everyone who flies with the team has a weak spot for these, no matter how strict or healthy their usual diet. (I almost named this blog “In Flight Cookies”… they’re that good). Second, someone comes around with a tray of chewing gum. That’s right – every time we fly, I get a pack of gum. (Some say I’m easily impressed).

Finally, as if the food, leg room and gum aren’t enough to ensure a pleasurable flight, someone hands you a wad of cash before you land. NHL per diem is a beautiful thing.

Note: If you enjoyed this entry, just wait until I have a good excuse to write about the team’s pregame meal… unreal.
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