ST. PETERSBURG, Russia
-- Inside the dark plane, illuminated only by the odd reading light or video screen, Eric Staal
's eyes slowly shut and the Carolina Hurricanes
’ captain fell into a deep sleep that lasted until the flight crew started to come by with breakfast trays. Nowhere in his thoughts or dreams did he wonder how his team would be greeted upon arrival in Russia.
"It's something that's a little bit different, but cool. It adds to the experience for our team, and so far it's been fun." -- Eric Staal
"I actually didn't think about it at all until we were getting off the bus and I saw them poking through the fence," Staal told NHL.com.
The "them" Staal referred to is the Russian media, and before he even could get on the bus that was taking the Hurricanes to their downtown hotel, they were there, looking to him for some sound bites. At one point, an NHL public-relations person diligently told the three camera crews and three photographers who they were talking to, and the reaction was shock.
"Yeah, we know him," replied one of the men operating a camera. He was laughing at the notion that someone would dare to assume they didn't know who Eric Staal
Staal didn't expect the camera crews or photographers, but he didn't mind, either. Neither did the rest of the team when two of the cameramen hopped right on the bus and started filming as the players waited for the rest of their luggage to be loaded on.
"It's something that's a little bit different, but cool," he said after conducting his on-camera interviews with the Russian media. "It adds to the experience for our team, and so far it's been fun."
There will be more media -- roughly six camera crews and a dozen or so print journalists -- covering Carolina's practice Sunday. For the exhibition game against SKA St. Petersburg on Monday, a KHL public-relations representative told NHL.com that 70 requests were made and he expects more to come in the next 48 hours.
A reporter and photographer from Sport-Express met the Canes at the hotel to interview goalie Cam Ward
about losing to Russia in the 2008 World Championship in Quebec City. The same two people accompanied the Hurricanes and various others, including NHL.com, on a brisk, hour-long walk through downtown St. Petersburg later Saturday afternoon.
"We don't know how things work here, so whatever happens, we'll adapt to it," Carolina GM Jim Rutherford told NHL.com. "Obviously based on prior to getting over here, some of the calls and interviews, this is a big game for them, so the fact that when we got here the media was covering right away when we landed is not a surprise."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl