The Penguins are going back to their roots Thursday for their pre-season contest against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. (www.pittsburghpenguins.com will be tracking the trip with a running diary)
The team is trading in their usual travel mode of flying in a plane for the open road. In true amateur hockey fashion, the Penguins will make the approximated three-hour drive to Columbus on a bus.
“Every one of these guys has ridden on a bus, long trips on a bus,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “This would be considered a relatively short one to go play a game. It is a unique (trip) in the fact that we don’t do it much in the National Hockey League, so there will be some chuckles. There will be some guys who joke around, bring their egg crates to sleep on afterwards on the way home. It should get the guys a little bit back to their roots. It’ll be good to see some NHL players get onto a bus and snuggle in next to each other and have a three-hour ride.”
Pittsburgh will depart following its morning practice for Columbus. The team will then play the game, which starts at 7 p.m. After the game the team will re-board the bus for the long ride back to Pittsburgh.
“It’s good to have a little time to be around,” defenseman Kris Letang
said. “We want to keep ourselves busy and make sure we get to know each other pretty well, because we have new players and it’s good for the team.”
Every one of these guys has ridden on a bus, long trips on a bus ... There will be some guys who joke around, bring their egg crates to sleep on afterwards on the way home. It should get the guys a little bit back to their roots. It’ll be good to see some NHL players get onto a bus and snuggle in next to each other and have a three-hour ride. - Dan Bylsma
This won’t be the first time the Penguins have used a bus recently. Just last season, the team was forced to ride a bus to Buffalo because of a snow storm.
“We did it last year,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
said. “We played in Buffalo. There was a snowstorm, so we had to bus. It was pretty fun. Guys just kind of hung out on the bus and that was a fun trip. (This time) we’re going right to the game, so it’s a little bit different. I think I'll try to rest a little bit before the game.”
Other than that Buffalo trip, it has been a long time since some members of the Penguins have taken a bus to a game. But for others, their bus riding experience is still pretty fresh.
“It might be a little weird for those guys,” said blueliner Alex Goligoski, who rode the bus while playing with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year. “They haven’t bus-ed in a long time. I’m sure it’ll be fun. It’ll kind of be like a joking thing with the guys I’m sure.”
“Playing with the Islanders we bus-ed to a lot of places,” veteran Bill Guerin said. “The Devils, the Rangers, we’d even bus down to Philadelphia the night before. Playing the New York area teams, you do bus a lot.”
The only downside to the long bus ride is finding something to do to pass the time. Each player has their own way of dealing with the downtime.
“Nintendo DS. I Mario Kart on the DS,” Goligoski said. “We had like eight guys that had them (in WBS), eight person races, pretty fun. Definitely passes the time. You’ve got to find things like that for the bus trip.”
“We usually throw a DVD on the TVs on the bus,” Guerin said. “Some guys have their iPods. Some guys are readers. We usually try to send a young guy out for a movie. I’d pick something a little too old and out of date. We usually try to get a younger guy or a middle-aged guy to go out and find something.”
“I might switch it up a little bit,” Fleury said. “Maybe take a little nap. To make the road go a little quicker I listen to music. If there’s movies, that’s what I love the most about a long bus ride, I love to just sit there, relax and watch movies.”
And Fleury knows that there is only one essential item to a long bus trip:
“Pillow. A pillow is always good.”