Yesterday was a special day in the history of the Nashville Predators, a team born in 1998. They made the trip from Washington D.C. to New York City via train – a special Metroliner into Penn Station, before bussing to their hotel near Central Park.
From the time the National Hockey League was founded in 1917 with four members – the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Arenas, the League moved about primarily by train.
The lone documented deviation from that happened in 1935, when the management of the New York Rangers decided the best way to handle a trip back-and-forth to Toronto would be by air. Since the Rangers lost at Maple Leaf Gardens, they decided to go back to the rails.
With a League that spread from Boston to Chicago, this was workable. Also consider that when the League began, there was more time for travel, as teams were scheduled for just 22 games. Later, it was expanded to 44 games, later 50, and then 70 game schedules were played from 1949 through 1967.
Many are the stories of traveling by train from the veterans of the game who played in that era. The post-game scrambles to get from the rink to the train station and the special cars reserved for them are a frequent topic. The home-and-home series between Boston and New York, Montreal and Chicago, and Toronto and Detroit bring back the memories of those who lived through those times.
This continued until the League’s “Great Expansion” of 1967, when it doubled in size to twelve teams. In search of a better U.S. television contract, the NHL extended itself into Los Angeles, Oakland, St. Louis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
While those expansion teams played within their own “Western Division” at the time, it was clear that train travel could no longer be the primary form of transportation. Like the other major sports, it was time to take to the air.
While today’s charter aircraft used by NHL teams are certainly comfortable and get teams to their destinations more quickly (at least when birds aren’t sucked into a jet engine), train travel is truly relaxing.
Teams based in the Eastern Corridor have gone by train. Yesterday, the Predators were able to take advantage of the opportunity and truly enjoyed it!