In the second installment of our WHL features, we shift from the arenas ino the bus, counting down my top three worst bus trips. Again, as being apart of the Western Conference these will be focused on the trips which are made more than once a year and all of these rides will be in relation to the Vancouver Giants schedule.
The bus ride for some can be a paradise of laughs, stories, movies, card games and snoozing. It can also be a death sentence of neglect, whispers and non-existent personal space for others. In four years, it’s fair to say I covered the entire spectrum. To set the scene for everybody reading, our bus was quite basic as charter buses go: a standard 56 passenger Prevost H345 containing a plethora of storage room underneath, a bathroom and a few small TV screens. Each person (for the most part) got their own two-seat isle and used it as a bed if need be, or shared the floor if they preferred it. Some teams with more grueling travel schedules (e.g., Prince George) had “sleeper” buses with their beds on them.
Now with a 36-game road schedule, roughly 13-15 of those are “day trip” games (Kelowna, Kamloops, Everett, Seattle, etc) where we would leave in the morning of the day of the game and return home immediately following. The remainders are overnight trips, spanning anywhere from 2-13 night road trips. As you can imagine some of those are not very appetizing. Taking into consideration our elements (regulation charter bus), I give you the top three worst bus trips:
#3: Vancouver → Spokane/Portland/Kennewick
to Spokane = approx. 7 hours
to Portland = approx. 6 hours
to Kennewick = approx. 5.5 hours
These three trips are not comparable in duration to some, but can definitely be a nightmare for players. One can learn early on their career to invest in the “Roam Like Home” cellular phone plan when partaking in one of these bus trips with nothing to rely on than shoddy (at best) WiFi service. In these situations your time is then spent:
1) pondering how long your stay in the doghouse will be due to not replying to your significant other’s texts
2) chatting about how disrespectful your 55 overall rating in “NHL Be A Pro” is
These trips also end in playing in three extremely hard road arenas.
“Horrible Bus Trip” rating = 5/10
#2: Kelowna → Vancouver
Duration: approx. 4 hours
Much like the previous trips, this isn’t a long bus ride by any means. However, the elements involved in this trip are what make it excruciating. This trip is always a post-game trip, departure time around 10:30, depending on when the game finishes. I kid you not when I say that 100% of the time (out of 16 games) this return trip was following a loss (and the majority, big losses) where a minus-2 rating and a second assist were worthy of a pat on the back. On extremely awful performances, this trip sometimes started with the ungodly act of cellphone confiscation. The post-game bus meal of a piping hot pizza and room temperature Gatorade would satisfy the stomach for roughly 10 minutes, while filling the entire bus with stench of pizza and body odour. Also, factor in the four-hour moment of silence – it’s not fun. Upon arrival back at 2-3 o’clock AM in Vancouver one was greeted with a hankering for a bottle of Tums and a quality mattress, for the 95 degree tilt of the bus seats didn’t quite give you the sleep you were looking for.
“Horrible Bus Trip” rating = 6/10
#1: Vancouver → Prince George
Duration: approx. 9 hours
For a lot of bus trips, the trip out isn’t as bad as the trip home. You’re excited to get on out with the teammates, escape home for a while. On the way home you’re usually tired, cranky and just want to be back in your own bed. However, whichever way you swing this trip, it blows. For those of you that have never been up to Prince George, during the hockey season (end of September to mid-March) you won’t be packing your shorts. It’s a nine-hour wind through the mountainous terrain of BC, with frequent spells of lost cellphone service and a guarantee of atrocious movie choices. Factor in a snowstorm or two en route and you’ll be lying if you said that you felt safe on that bus. And if you hate sleep, this trip is for you! It is usually a 12:00 AM departure time so your body clock recovers with two minutes to go in the third period of the second game. The proverbial icing on cake is 99.99% chance of leaving the ‘George with a split (one win, one loss).
“Horrible Bus Trip” rating = 9.5/10
- Calgary → Vancouver: This 12-hour bus trip had to be left off of the list due to the fact it occurs only once a season. Usually this marathon ride caps off a 6-9 day road trip, which is all that needs to be said.
- Prince George → Edmonton: This trip was left off due to do minimal occurrence as well. The 7.5-hour trip via the Yellowhead Highway is an eye-opener.
- Vancouver → Seattle: This short 2.5-hour trek down the I-5 is always made during rush hour traffic. Arrival time is usually locked in at one hour before puck drop.
Carter is a hockey player, formerly in the WHL for the Vancouver Giants, currently at the University of British Columbia. You can follow him on Twitter @carter_popoff.
You can follow Hit the Cut on Twitter @hitthecutblog.