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GENE'S BLOG: Kailer Road Trip

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about Kailer Yamamoto and life on the road for the Edmonton rookie

by Gene Principe / Special to

Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver were the Edmonton Oilers road stops in the pre-season. In the regular season, there was a short plane ride back to the West Coast before the team embarked on its first longer getaway of the season.

Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh - in that order. Leave on a Wednesday, and come back on a Wednesday. It's nothing new really new to any of the Oilers, except for one: Kailer Yamamoto. The rookie is getting his first chance to live life on the road in the NHL.  

"It's the same, but different," said the quiet and well-spoken rookie. It is the same in that he's playing hockey. He's done it every fall and winter for as long as he can remember. Rink, hotel, bus over and over again. What's different is the addition of a plane and the locations. Trade small, homey, and heart-warming communities across the prairies and in the United States for large, upscale centres full of people and places to go. There has been a lot to experience for Yamamoto, which includes life on the road.

The 19-year-old doesn't say too much. Ask about him and you'll get the same type of responses from Pat Garland, the Oilers manager of communications and team services, or Senior Director Hockey Communications & Media Relations JJ Hebert. You can even ask Jeff Lang, head equipment manager, or Assistant Equipment Manager Brad Harrison.

They all say he's a nice kid.

He doesn't ask for much and doesn't ask too many questions. He's got his teammates to lean on, but not even they can talk or walk him through playing against Patrick Kane or his favourite player: Sidney Crosby.

Doesn't seem that long ago that Yamamoto was watching Crosby score the Golden Goal for Canada at the 2010 Olympics. A pre-teenager then, who is still a teenager now, and playing against his idol.

"It's surreal."

I told you he was quiet, but those two words might apply to a lot that's going on in the world of the first-round pick. 

While this was a business trip, the way the games were spaced out there was also some time for pleasure. In Philadelphia, along with some of his teammates, Yamamoto went to see part of the Boston Celtics game against the hometown 76'ers. With Sunday being a mandated day off, the youngest Oiler joined his older teammates for a little team bonding at the Pittsburgh Steelers football game.

He's just a kid, but playing a grown-up game - often on a line with Connor McDavid and with a team expected to challenge for a Stanley Cup. It's a lot to take in, but Yamamoto is doing his best to enjoy the moment and the games. Sitting at seven games, he's getting nervously close to the nine-game mark, which will help determine where and when his next away games will be. 

The next time the Oilers get away from Rogers Place it begins in New York. It's the city that never sleeps and Yamamoto might not be sleeping much if he's still enjoying the direct jump from the WHL to the NHL. He said earlier in camp that in the big leagues they treat you like a king. He would have really felt like royalty if the 22nd pick in 2017 had been able to pot his first goal on this road trip. He was agonizingly close and it was about the only thing missing from this three-game set. That would have just topped off what has been a Kailer road trip. 

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