After the end of the 13-game Islanders road trip, a new arena awaits

The NHL season has been underway for over a month, and the Islanders have spent more time in a Chicago restaurant than on their ice rink...


The NHL season has been underway for over a month, and the Islanders have spent more time in a Chicago restaurant than on their ice rink. They spent more minutes in the penalty box in Winnipeg than in the locker room at their own arena.

They have skated in 11 cities, four time zones and two countries, compassed in all directions and lodged in nearly a dozen hotels across the continent. They did all of that, and they still haven’t played at home.

And it’s not over.

After 11 straight road games, the Islanders will add two more in Florida on Monday and Tuesday. This is the second longest consecutive road game streak in NHL history and the longest to start a season – a unique challenge for players, coaches, equipment managers, secretaries. itinerant and desperate fans.

“It’s different,” said Casey Cizikas, the team’s veteran center. “Our longest flight last year was just over an hour. This year we travel a lot more and play with different teams, so there is a lot of misunderstanding there. “

It’s been so long since the Islanders played a home game that it’s hard to remember where the home is. For a few more days, it’s a bit nowhere.

The unusual schedule was necessary because the Islanders are moving into a new arena in Elmont, NY, and extra time was needed to complete it. A few months ago, when it became clear that construction would continue beyond October, the NHL’s traditional opening month, the Islanders called on the league to make accommodations.

So the bags of gear were loaded and the Islanders were sent on a tour of North America, where they would play almost exclusively in arenas they hadn’t seen in over a year, in front of fans for the most hostile.

“It’s obviously not ideal,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “You too want to play in front of your own fans. “

That will finally happen on Saturday, against the Calgary Flames, at the Islanders’ new home, UBS Arena, nearly six weeks after the first puck of the season fell.

By then, the Islanders will have played a third of their road schedule for the season, against 12 teams they haven’t seen at all in the 2021 season, which has been cut short and restructured due to the pandemic. of coronavirus.

They enter the action Monday night with a 5-6 record, and the remaining games of that 13-game road streak will be against defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, two of the top teams in the country. league.

There were no complaints from the public, and the team even saw the value of the time spent together on the road to open a long season. Players also know that the schedule, which features long periods of time off, could have been worse.

“We knew it would be a challenge,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock. “It takes a toll on you mentally and physically to travel and play. But we have done a good job so far. We still have a few left. It just means we’re going to have more home games down the stretch later in the year, which is positive. “

The only team to have played more consecutive road games was the 2009-10 Vancouver Canucks, who were essentially kicked out of the city for 14 games due to the Winter Olympics February 12-28, 2010, in Vancouver. , in British Columbia. For the Canucks, it was actually two trips separated by vacations.

They have been on the road for eight games. Then the NHL got a few weeks off. Andrew Raycroft, a Canucks goaltender at the time, said he and about half of the team went to Hawaii and the other half to Mexico.

Upon their return, they met in Ohio for a four-day camp before playing six more road games, starting against the Columbus Blue Jackets. They were 8-6 on the trip and then lost to eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago in the playoffs.

“The first part was fun, but the second half really started to drag on,” said Raycroft, now an analyst for the Boston Bruins shows. “But we got better along the way. This is when you really become a team.

Raycroft recalled team-building events on the trips, including a loud outing after a win in Toronto, a fishing trip and a golf outing in Florida.

The Islanders had enough space in their schedule this year to divide the long drive into separate trips and spend a lot of time at home and training multiple times at their facility in East Meadow, N. York.

The first and longest leg started in Raleigh, North Carolina, Miami and Chicago. They enjoyed a big team dinner in downtown Chicago and won their first game of the season there. They then headed to Columbus, Ohio, then to Phoenix and Las Vegas, finishing with two more wins.

After that, there was only one game scheduled over the next 10 days (an overtime loss to the Predators in Nashville), which became a trip in its own right.

Four days after that game, the team played in Montreal, where Barry Trotz, the Isles coach, met a friend for dinner for the first time in months.

“It was like my third time in a restaurant since the start of the pandemic,” Trotz said. “I mean, strange. But in fact, it was a bit normal.

The last time the Islanders were in Canada was in March 2020.

After beating the Canadiens, the Islanders flew to Winnipeg, Man., Where they beat the Jets on November 6 and started to look like the team that led the Lightning to a game seventh of the season’s conference finals. last. But they haven’t won since.

On Thursday, they had their closest contact with a home game: They faced the Devils in Newark, NJ. About half of the Prudential Center fans were Islanders fans, desperate to get a glimpse of their team in person. Still, the Islanders treated it like a game on the road, spending the night before the game at a New Jersey hotel. They lost 4-0 to fall under 0.500.

Raycroft said the extended road streak will help the Islanders. Although the team is mainly made up of players who have played together for a few years, including one deep elimination race last season and a stint in the so-called bubble at the end of the 2020 season, the long stint in away jerseys helped build team bonds.

Equally important, after the Florida Islanders return, they will play 31 of their next 46 home games. Raycroft said eliminating road games early would give the Islanders a significant advantage over their division rivals.

“When I first saw this schedule I was like, ‘Wow, it’s really long before I play at home,’ Raycroft said. “It must be quite strange. But it will help them in the long run.

There’s another bump to come: At the very end of the day, the Islanders are playing nine of their last 14 road games. At least they will know how to do it.

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Newsrust - US Top News: After the end of the 13-game Islanders road trip, a new arena awaits
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