Sunday was a long first day in Europe for the New York Rangers, who arrived in Bern, Switzerland at about 8:30 a.m. local time after a direct flight that followed Saturday’s preseason game vs. New Jersey at Madison Square Garden.
|Rangers players take their first steps into Europe on Sunday morning at the airport outside Bern, Switzerland. The team flew nearly eight hours to its final destination. Shown from left to right are Petr Prucha, Henrik Lundqvist, Fredrik Sjostrom, Michal Rozsival and Nigel Dawes. |
The Blueshirts’ flight lasted nearly eight hours, and the long but scenic ride from the airport to the team hotel in Bern added roughly another hour. As a result, sleep was at a premium, even in the hours before a scheduled 3 p.m. practice at PostFinance Arena – roughly a 10 minute drive (25-minute walk) from the hotel.
While most players managed to sleep a few precious hours on the plane overseas, the six-hour time difference caught up to them by the time a vigorous practice ended at just before 5 p.m. local time.
“It was tiring,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
said of the Day One practice, “But it was really good that we got out there and got a really good practice in. We'll all be exhausted tonight, but that's good so we can get to bed early and not stay out too long and get used to the time zone here.
Rangers head coach Tom Renney was on the ice with assistant coaches Perry Pearn and Mike Pelino, as well as assistant general manager Jim Schoenfeld. They ran the 26 players through a long series of drills and gathered the team for numerous strategy discussions by the bench -– all in preparation for Tuesday night’s preseason game against a local SC Bern team coached by former NHL defenseman John Van Boxmeer, who was once paired with Schoenfeld on Buffalo’s blue line.
“The trick is to try to get your sleep on the plane,” said Renney. “… So when you get here, then as planned you're able to participate in a pretty hard practice, and I think that helps too. … I think our guys really worked hard today and recognized that this is an important day because it helps you erase the time difference. “
Renney said he would stay up late on Sunday watching video and hoped to be fully adjusted to the new time zone by the time practice began on Monday morning. He also said that he would get to the rink early enough to watch Van Boxmeer’s SC Bern team practice.
There was no doubt the Rangers’ practice was spirited. Players already somewhat sleep-deprived said they really pushed hard not to show fatigue during the nearly two-hours on ice.
“You were a little bit tired and a little bit jet-lagged, but it was good,” said forward Fredrik Sjostrom, who will be playing in Bern for the first time on Tuesday. “ It was good to get the legs going and the body moving. It was a hard practice, so you know you'll sleep well tonight.”
Chris Drury complimented the Rangers staff for setting up the travel as they did, enabling the team to sleep on the plane before getting a full first day in Europe.
“So far so good,” Drury said after practice. “I think we're going to sleep pretty well tonight, but it's good, too. You know, the way they timed it. Land, get lunch and go right to practice. It was a good day.”
Drury, who has also never before played in Bern but knows the Prague rink well, said he also saw the long, eight-day European stint as an advantage in that it could help bring the whole team together.
“Hopefully, we all just kind of bond and get to know each other a little bit better,” he said. “With all the new guys and camp being kind of a spread out thing with three different teams of Ranger guys -- team blue, team red and team white -- so you don't really get to see anyone other than the guys on your team. So it's nice to be in the same locker room and be ready to go together.”
Tired or not, the Rangers certainly put on a good practice for those lucky enough to attend it at PostFinance Arena. As they came off the ice, each of the players signed autographs for enthusiastic European hockey fans who were clearly thrilled to have NHL players among them for a few days.
“I actually played here with my junior team in 1974,” said Renney, recalling a previous trip to Bern. “It's very different, but I've got a fair bit of international experience and know that it's fun. I think the guys will enjoy playing here for sure.”