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Fun in the sun? Not for business-like Wings

by Matthew O'Day / Detroit Red Wings
For Dominik Hasek, the Red Wings' west coast trips can take a physical toll. But he prefers to not dwell too much on the exhausting trips.
In most cases, an extended trip from Detroit to the west coast in January might be seen as an opportunity for relaxation – a chance to enjoy some much needed sun and relaxation before enduring the rest of Michigan’s notorious winter.

For the Red Wings, however, the trip is all about business. According to goalie Dominik Hasek, “You go there, you do your best, and you go home and play maybe the next day.”

Of course, even in his 14th NHL season, Hasek does admit that it’s still tough on him.

“With the time change," he said, "it’s hard, but you try to not think about it too much. For sure, it takes a toll.”

You wouldn’t believe that the Wings have any trouble with west coast trips from looking at the 2007-08 season, though. In their first two extended trips – both of which began in October – the Wings are a combined 6-1.

And while this trip should be tough for the current NHL points leaders given the fact that two of their opponents – San Jose and Anaheim – are second and third, respectively, in points in the Western Conference, the fans may be excited to see two teams that the Wings skated with in the 2007 postseason. In fact, forward Mikael Samuelsson would agree.

“I like those trips," he said. "it’s a good series, it’s fun to play those games, and they’re fun teams to play against.”

At the same time, the new father does have an appreciation for hotel life.

“My fiancée is doing a good job here," Samuelsson said. "But it’s good to have regular sleep through the night.”

But while the team takes these trips in stride, opinion is still split when it comes to the merit of so much long distance travel. Forward Henrik Zetterberg, for example, believes that the toughest part of the swing isn’t the games they play, but the readjustment to normalcy afterward.

“The toughest part is getting home," said Zetterberg, the Wings' leading scorer. "It’s not that bad going out there, but the games and dates after you come from the west coast trip are tough on your body.”
Thankfully, the NHL has been somewhat kind to the Red Wings, providing them with much-needed rest after each of their first two trips – three days off at the end of the first, and five after the second.

And as defenseman Brian Rafalski notes, “Fortunately, this trip we come back and we have the all-star break, so we should be adjusted fine.”

Typically, the time between games on the road is spent practicing – getting a feel for the opponents’ buildings and ice surfaces – and players appreciate their limited downtime.

“(We do) a lot of relaxing," Samuelsson said. "It’s pretty intense when you’re not home. With
When it comes to west coast trips, the Wings like forwards Mikael Samuelsson (left) and Henrik Zetterberg (right) are split.
the first couple of days you can lie in bed and watch TV or a movie. Other than that we go out to a movie or go out to dinner, or once in a while do a team thing like bowling.”
In an attempt to bring some excitement to the team’s otherwise exhausting travel, this will be the Red Wings’ annual ‘Fathers' trip,’ during which players and coaches – who were often chaperoned by their parents extensively during their junior hockey careers – will have the chance to turn the tables and take their dads along.

The schedule isn’t set until the flight out of Detroit. But Samuelsson said, “I guess we have something similar to paintball – I’m not really sure though."

But no matter what the plan, the Red Wings enjoy the chance to bond as much as the fathers do.

“(My dad) knows it was a good opportunity for him," coach Mike Babcock said. "He’s been with me for one in Anaheim and two here, and it’s one of those things that hopefully dad will be on 10 more of them. Kid’s just gotta keep coaching in the league and it’ll happen.”

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