The oversized suitcases are out in full force as the Nashville Predators embark on a five-game to the Midwest and Western Canada.
With stops in Colorado, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and finally Minnesota - all over the course of nine days - there's no shortage of sights to be seen and points up for the taking. So with that in mind, enjoy a look at the Predators travels across the continent as seen from the eyes of someone who is lucky enough to ride in tow.
After flying to Colorado the morning of their game that afternoon against the Avalanche, the Predators touched down in Denver approximately four hours ahead of their 1 p.m. MT contest. From the runway, it was straight to Pepsi Center in downtown Denver for the third and final time this season.
With tallies from newcomer Cody McLeod, Mike Fisher and Filip Forsberg, the Preds ultimately scored three unanswered goals to come back and defeat the Avalanche by a 3-2 final. And just as soon as they landed in Colorado, it was back to the Denver International Airport to head to Canada, with Vancouver, British Columbia, first on the list.
It's rare to get a day off on a road trip, and when you're in a city as beautiful as Vancouver, you take advantage. Sometimes the best way to explore a new city - it was my first visit in three seasons with the Preds - is to simply start walking. And that's exactly what I did.
It was a gorgeous day considering the season - 40 degrees and sunny - so a stroll on the seawall along Vancouver Harbour was the perfect way to take in what are breathtaking views of the mountains on one side of the harbour and the skyline of Vancouver on the other.
Stanley Park, which covers almost 1,000 acres just to the northwest of downtown Vancouver, was a must see, and the seawall continues right into the park, with magnificent views of the city.
After encountering some historic house posts, also known as totem poles…
…my walk continued through the park and to the Vancouver Aquarium, where I touched sting rays and imagined the clown fish were all named Nemo. The aquarium was an enjoyable time and was a relaxing break from the exercise, very helpful once realizing there was only one way to get back to where I had come from that morning.
But the views of the city and the mountains were more than enough to make the walk back to the team's downtown hotel just as enjoyable as it had been a few hours earlier. Vancouver is a gorgeous city - the photos really don't do it justice - and if you have the means, it would make a great road trip stop to see the Preds.
Once the sightseeing was complete, it was back to work in Vancouver, beginning at Rogers Arena, home of the Canucks. Formerly known as GM Place, the building hosted the hockey games in the 2010 Winter Olympics that saw Canada defeat the U.S. in the Gold Medal Game.
After Tuesday's loss to the Canucks, it was immediately off to the province of Alberta - Calgary to be exact - to prepare for Thursday's contest against the Flames. Calgary has an impressive downtown - bigger than I expected - complete with a handful of modern office buildings and the Calgary Tower, which lured me to the top prior to Thursday night's game.
Once at the top, the views are tremendous - skyscrapers combined with the prairies to the east and the Rocky Mountains to the west. And for the adventurous type, there is a glass floor to stand on and look straight down to 9th Ave. below. I was on just long enough to snap a photo, and that was more than enough.
The Scotiabank Saddledome, home of the Flames, is one of the more unique buildings in the League, known for its roof shaped like, you guessed it, a saddle.
It's got a handful of features and quirks that only older buildings have, like a suspended press box and a catwalk that goes right over top of the scoreboard at center ice. Again, just long enough to snap a photo, and then I was out of there.
A 4-3 win over the Flames and a quick flight north to Edmonton made for a productive Thursday.
Friday brought with it another game, this time at the brand new Rogers Place. It's a spectacular venue with all the bells and whistles one would expect from a new venue. The main entrance was particularly impressive, and a 3-2 shootout win over the Oilers made it that much sweeter.
With the Western Canada swing complete, it was back to the U.S. and the State of Hockey to face the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night. Conveniently, the team hotel in St. Paul is a five-minute walk to the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Wild, and stopping to say hello to Herb Brooks, coach of the United States 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team, is a must.
A trip around the concourse of the arena will yield unique finds, such as a tribute to Preds Assistant Coach and Minnesota hockey legend, Phil Housley. Also, the Hobey Baker Award, awarded annually to College Hockey's top player, sits on display, along with photos of past winners, including former Preds Matt Carle, Blake Geoffrion and Paul Kariya.
Xcel Energy Center is an impressive facility, complete with a lighthouse tower in one corner of the arena that lights up when the Wild score. But much to our delight, that only happened twice as the Preds defeated Minnesota 4-2 to round out the five-game trip with a stellar 4-1-0 record.
And then finally, after five games in nine days, it was time to head home - with eight points in tow.