We're midway through this five-in-five and there's a lot I could write about –the atmosphere in the locker room, my insightful chat with Head Equipment Manager Barrie Stafford, or pre-gaming at the bar. (The bar in the club lounge, which provides a convenient workspace just outside the locker room and serves no alcohol whatsoever at 11am on a gameday. I swear.)
But instead of focusing on those very interesting aspects of my day-to-day Oilers existence, I'm going to dedicate this first edition of S.C.O.O.P.S
ilers infO P
ertaining to S
tuff) to the Oilers private jet.
As I have only flown on the jet once (to Vancouver and back for pre-season at the Canucks), I'm no expert on the subject of NHL transportation. But here are a few things I was surprised to learn about commuting with a hockey club:
- The flight is operated by Air Canada and the crew members work on one-year contracts chartering all Canadian NHL teams, the Boston Bruins, and the Toronto Raptors. There are five charter planes servicing the transportation needs of eight teams, so the crew simply swaps out the logoed headrests whenever a new team comes aboard. Because the flight attendants and other service people are familiar with the Oilers staff and players, it makes for a very friendly atmosphere on-board. No crying babies helps too. A lot.
- The players sit at the back, the senior management in the front, and the scouts, media, web and PR folk in the middle, in that order. You don't want to be the last one on the bus or the plane. Quite embarrassing, I hear.
- You can't wear jeans and can't check any luggage (they've got to save room for all the hockey gear). As a result, packing light and wearing comfortable business clothes are priorities.
- Speaking of comfort, all the seats are First Class, which means you've got extra room to stretch. This must be especially important on long post-game flights when players might not have enough time to properly cool down at the rink. At the back of the plane, there are four sets of “train style” seating – you know, where you've got two chairs facing backwards with a table in the middle.
- As for the typical on-board announcements, the crew keeps it to a minimum. The safety videos are played before take-off but the flight attendants refrain from delivering that long “no smoking, no cell-phones, etc.” spiel. They also don't tell you what the weather is like at your destination, probably because they know you will be spending your days in a hotel or hockey rink.
- Speaking of cell-phones, you still have to turn them off when in the air. Even the big shots like Tambellini and me.
- The buses are waiting when you land and they drive right up to the plane when you're ready to fly out. There is a very tight turnaround between the final buzzer and flight departure, so it was a scramble for Marc and I to wrap up the game story, pack up our gear, head down to the locker room, grab quotes, email those back to 630 CHED and whoever's working from home (Steve in this case), and hop on the bus.
- Last but not least (literally), there is no shortage of food on the plane. And by “no shortage,” I mean they could probably go the entire season without restocking the cabinets. It's quite impressive and delicious, and for this reason I'm breaking the food topic into sub-categories:
- Snacks: When you first arrive on the plane and then when you exit, you are presented with a full selection of chocolate bars, gum, energy drinks, fruit, crackers, cheese, chips, and candy. Filling your pockets is frowned upon, but I seriously considered it.
- Self-serve: A bit further down the aisle is another display of self-serve items, including fresh fruit, sandwiches, veggies, sushi, etc. – healthier fare for those so inclined.
- Meals: After take-off and if you haven't already stuffed yourself, the very attentive flight attendants will serve a selection of hot meals. The options on my flight were an omelet, French toast, and egg burrito in the morning and then beef brochette, pasta bolognaise, chicken with turkey seasoning, chicken ceasar salad, and chicken mandarin salad on the way home. It was 1:00am Mountain time when dinner was served, FYI. I wasn't exactly famished.
- Snacks, Part II: But if I WAS still famished for some freakish reason, I could have grabbed a few more snacks when the flight attendants made a final walk-through.
- Beverages: Of course, drinks are served throughout the flight.
- Let's not forget this was a one-hour flight. That's a lot of food for 40 bellies to digest in 60 minutes.
That's the lowdown on the Oilers jet. I'm sure the thrill wears off after a while, but I'll be definitely looking forward to my next top-end trip. Steve will be flying with the club all season so I'm sure he'll have lots of fun features and notes from the road.
If you have any suggestions for S.C.O.O.P.S Part II – inside the equipment room or press box do's and don'ts, for example – be sure to reply to this blog or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org