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Wild's travel day Friday was anything but routine

As one of 11 teams required to play on the road the first game back from Christmas, the Wild embarked on one of the NHL's most unique days

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

The first game back from the NHL-mandated three-day Christmas break is one of the most unusual days of the entire season.

For the 11 teams that played road games on Friday, including the Wild, who played the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Denver, throw travel on top of the other logistical challenges. 

Teams are not allowed to practice at all during the layoff, which means those that are in action in the first game back will have only one morning skate to work off three days of rustiness and a holiday diet that isn't always the best. 

Typically, teams playing road games travel to opposing cities the day before the game. Under normal circumstances, the Wild would have left the Twin Cities at 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon for a Friday night game. It would have a full evening in Denver and plenty of sleep in a hotel before going through a typical game-day routine.

Friday was anything but that for the Wild and others that traveled, but you won't hear a single complaint. While NHL players are notorious creatures of habit, they relish the opportunity to spend three days with family during the holidays. A disruption to one routine is a small price to pay to get it.

Still, the challenges teams face, especially traveling ones, are interesting.'s Dan Myers chronicled Minnesota's busy first day back from the holiday break on Friday:

7 a.m. CT - Players start arriving at Signature Flight Support terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The flight west is scheduled for 8 a.m., but General Manager Bill Guerin requires all staff and players to be aboard the aircraft no later than 7:45 a.m.

7:50 a.m. CT - The charter jet pulls away from the terminal and taxis to the runway.

8:05 a.m. CT - The plane rumbles down the runway and takes off, putting the Wild in the air some 11 hours before the scheduled puck drop for the game in Denver.

Aboard the plane, things are a little quieter than normal. While players are normally up and talkative during a day-before flight, most are getting another hour or so of sleep as the team heads west. Trainers and support staff are also catching rest while the smaller-than-normal media contingent (the game is a national broadcast, so the Fox Sports North team is not on the plane for this trip) in the very back of the plane is catching up on prep ahead of the game. 

8:50 a.m. MT - The Wild's plane lands at Denver International Airport. A 10-minute taxi brings it to a stop near two busses, one that will carry the players as well as the coaching staff, and another that will house media and support staff.

9:35 a.m. MT - The busses pull up to the Pepsi Center loading docks and the team disembarks its bus and heads inside. 

Normally, the team's gear is already inside the arena and set up in the dressing room, ready for player arrivals, but with the equipment truck arriving around the same time as the team bus, players will help push the mountain of equipment that needs to be brought back to the dressing room area.

10:25 a.m. MT - The first players and coaches hit the ice for the team's morning skate. These have been optional since Bruce Boudreau took over as coach, but with the three-day layoff, every player is on the ice to work off any rustiness that may have accumulated during the break.

10:55 a.m. MT - Players begin to clear off the ice at a pretty regular clip and head into the dressing room for their pre-game media availability. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk is a popular target. First, he's having a chat with NBCSN play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert before beginning his scrum with local media. 

11:20 a.m. MT - The first of two busses departs from the arena and heads back to the team hotel, where players will head immediately to the meal room and enjoy lunch. 

After that, players will have a couple of hours in a room to do with what they please. Most will find a way to shut things down and find some extra sleep. Others will watch a movie on their TV or watch a little extra film in preparation for the game.

3:15 p.m. MT - The first bus leaves the team hotel for Pepsi Center. About two-thirds of the team will be on this bus. The support staff and the coaching staff has already arrived at the arena via Uber. 

3:30 p.m. MT - The second bus leaves the hotel, one carrying several of the team's more veteran players. Which bus a player rides to the rink is entirely up to him, but each has a pretty strict routine, so the faces are pretty much the same no matter which city the team finds itself in. 

5:31 p.m. MT - Both teams hit the ice for pre-game warmups. They will skate for 16 minutes before the pre-game flood commences one minute after that. Every aspect of pre-game is planned at this point, and is typically executed down to the minute. National anthem singer Jake Schroeder is introduced at 6:07 and 40 seconds, he will hit his first notes at 6:08 and the puck drop will follow two minutes later.

6:10 p.m. MT - The puck is down for the start of the Wild and Avalanche. This is two minutes later than normal, as the game is being broadcast nationally on NBCSN. 

8:43 p.m. MT - The final horn sounds on an impressive 6-4 win for the Wild. Six different players tab goals for the Wild, including the game winner by Victor Rask. Inside the dressing room over the next 10 minutes, Boudreau will have a few words with the team, Luke Kunin will award the "Hero of the Game" helmet to Rask, then the door will swing open and media will enter for postgame availability. 

9:20 p.m. MT - The busses depart Pepsi Center for Denver International Airport, and not a moment later. Players are eager to get back on the plane, fly home and get a good night's rest ahead of a busy weekend. 

10:02 p.m. MT - Wild players, coaches and staff board the plane back to Minnesota. The equipment staff loads the team's bags and trunks into the luggage hold as players get a quick nibble before takeoff. 

11 p.m. MT - After a lengthy wait on the de-ice pad, the Wild's jet again roars down the runway, this time headed back to Minnesota with two points in hand. Unlike the morning, when Wild players were content to catch up on sleep, the cards are out and there is life in the middle of the plane. Coaches are in the front, already breaking down film of the game in preparation for practice at TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center on Saturday morning.

1:19 a.m. CT - The plane lands at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and for players, coaches and media, the long day is almost over. They will retreat to their cars and begin their journeys home. The equipment staff has about 90 minutes of work remaining, however. They will first go to Xcel Energy Center and unload the team's game equipment and get things set for a game there Sunday. All sticks, skates and goalie equipment will stay on the truck and go to TRIA Rink, where it will be set up in the team's dressing room there ahead of practice on Saturday. Meetings begin just over nine hours from the time the team lands and players will be on the ice again for practice in a little more than 10. 

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