VANCOUVER, B.C. – Hosting the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver will force the Canucks on an Olympic-sized road trip next season.
The Canucks will have an NHL-record 14-game road trip sandwiched around the 2010 Games. Counting the break the league will take for the Olympics, Vancouver fans will go six weeks without a Canuck home game.
“It’s obviously something that is extraordinary for a team to be out of their building, to play that many games consecutively, on the road,” said Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman.
“It will be significant and our team will have to be playing well when the trip begins.”
The NHL will break for the Games from Feb. 14 to March 1. Many of the Olympic tournament games will be placed at GM Place, the Canucks’ home arena.
GM Place will host the gold medal games for both men’s and women’s hockey.
Vancouver will play eight games on the road before the Games and six after.
The Canucks play at home Jan. 27 against St. Louis, then go to Toronto for a Jan. 30 match against the Maple Leafs. Their next home game is March 13 against Ottawa.
The schedule didn’t come as a surprise to Canuck management. Since Vancouver won the right to host the 2010 Games, the team knew it faced an extended road trip.
Gilman and Canuck general manager Mike Gillis met with the NHL schedule makers in January in an attempt to reduce the impact of the prolonged journey.
“It was very important for us to stay within certain time zones, to not cross back and forth between time zones,” said Gilman. “Fortunately for us, the league was very accommodating.”
After facing the Maple Leafs, the Canucks play in Montreal Feb. 2, Ottawa Feb. 4, Boston Feb. 6, Tampa Bay Feb. 9, Florida Feb. 11, Columbus Feb. 12 and Minnesota Feb. 14.
Following the Olympics, Vancouver has games in Columbus March 2, Detroit March 3, Chicago March 7, Colorado March 9, and Phoenix March 10.
Vancouver’s longest homestand is eight games, from Dec. 10 to Dec. 26.
Being based on the West Coast means Canuck players are used to travel.
When Gillis took over as the Canucks GM last year, he commissioned a military sleep expert and had the players wear biorhythm bracelets to measure their waking and slumbering hours during an early-season trip. The information was used to determine roommate pairings, practice times on the road, and optimal flying times.
Gilman said the Canucks won’t use the Olympics as an excuse.
“We’re going to have a team this is going to be a Stanley Cup competing team,” he said. “We think this road trip isn’t something that is going to affect our competitiveness over the course of the year.
“Our players are going to spend a great deal of time together, so it may very well turn out to be a positive thing for us.”
When the 1988 Olympic Games were held in Calgary, NHL players did not compete in the Olympics.
The Games still forced the Flames on an 11-game road trip between Feb. 2 and March 3.
The team went 5-5-1 on that trip and the Flames went on to capture the President’s Trophy that season for the best record in the NHL.