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Kings Tackle 11-Hour Flight with Ease

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

It almost looked more like a slumber party than a transcontinental flight.

A walk through the aisles of the Kings’ plane, as it traveled from Las Vegas to Hamburg, revealed all kinds of modes of relaxation. Some laid across three or four seats. Some sat reading or watching a movie, while others reclined their seat backs. One even dozed off for a while on the cabin floor.

All aboard tried to get some type of sleep during the nearly-11-hour flight, for the start of the week-long stay in Europe. Most importantly, the Kings players needed to be comfortable. After all, they would be the ones doing the hardest work, and most needed to avoid the dreaded jet lag.

By all accounts, the trip went as well as possible. Players occupied first-class "pods," which allowed them to fully recline and sleep, and upon arrival in Germany, they had enough energy to make it through an off-ice workout on "Sunday night," which felt like early Sunday morning to their bodies.

"Quite comfortable, actually," Kings winger Justin Williams said of the flight. "I don’t think many of us had been on 11-hour flights. You expected it to be a lot worse, but airlines have come a long way. It’s almost like having your own bed there. We took a little pill, and I think I did exactly what everyone else did on the plane, got about
four or five hours, maybe six, and watched a movie. It was actually very comfortable.

"I think, also, that when you have people around who you like, who you can talk to, it helps. You’re not in coach (class) next to some guy you don’t know. It makes it a lot more comfortable and easy to fly."

On the other hand, those who wanted some privacy could easily find it.

For added comfort, the Kings chartered a massive Airbus A330, a plane that seats approximately 250, even though the team’s traveling party only numbered approximately 75 people.

As noted, players got the "pods" in the front third of the plane, while coaches and staff members claimed dibs on entire rows in the back two-thirds. Blankets were spread out over seats, pillows were laid down and t-shirts and sweatpants quickly replaced button-down shirts and suit pants.

Throughout the summer, and at the start of training camp, the Kings received advice from a sleep consultant, who suggested meal and sleep times in order to best acclimate players to European time.

In the players’ case, that meant eating a meal soon after getting on the plane -- shortly after the end of the "Frozen Fury" game on Saturday night -- then staying for a while, then taking a sleeping pill and trying to get as much rest as possible. Breakfast was available a couple hours before the end of the flight.

Based on instruction from the sleep consultant, and his own experiences playing overseas as an NHL defenseman, coach Terry Murray scheduled late-afternoon practices in Europe.

So, upon arrival, players could spend more than half a day resting, if they chose, before the bus left for practice in Hamburg at 4 p.m. local time. No such luck for Murray, who went to the arena for a 1 p.m. press conference and stayed until practice ended, a total of more than seven hours.

Despite the massive time change, the team tried to stay on as normal a routine as possible. Team meals followed practices, and Tuesday’s morning skate -- before the exhibition game against the Hamburg Freezers -- started at 11:30 a.m. local time, just as it would for any regular-season road game.

After Tuesday’s game against the Freezers, the Kings were scheduled for a quick flight to Stockholm -- with another time change, but only an hour -- in advance of Friday’s season opener against the New York Rangers.

"It’s certainly not easy," Williams said. "It’s a heck of a trip we’ve been going on here, and it’s just starting. So we’ve got a long way to go, but it’s been fun. The season is upon us, so it’s time to start focusing more, put the last game behind and focus on the next one and the start of the season right now."

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