Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

In junior hockey, it is an article of faith that the Western Hockey League breeds the toughest players — and looking at the schedule, it's not hard to see why.

Pointing out the WHL's 22 teams, spread between Brandon, Man., and Portland, Ore., are more far-flung than their counterparts to the east is a little obvious. You mean there's more distance between major cities in Western Canada? Tell us more, Professor. However, it seems like something that can't be fully appreciated unless you've had to live that life and perhaps it cannot be fully appreciated until you look at some of the lengthy road swings teams in the Dub will endure, experience and perhaps enjoy this season.

This was in part inspired by the Portland Winterhawks, who tomorrow will begin a nine-game, 17-day trip to Alberta and British Columbia. They'll cover some 4,200 km on the trip.

Originally, the road trip was supposed to be six games through the Western Hockey League's Central Division, but [coach-GM Mike] Johnston and management added one game at Kamloops and two at Kelowna to the end of the journey, rather than schedule two long bus rides for those games in British Columbia later in the season.

... The road schedule: Friday, Edmonton; Saturday, Red Deer; Tuesday, Calgary; Wednesday, Medicine Hat; Oct. 28, Lethbridge; Oct. 29, Kootenay; Nov. 2, Kamloops; Nov. 4-5, Kelowna.

... "I've never been on a road trip like this," defenseman William Wrenn says. "I'm looking forward to it.

"I think it'll be good and bad. It's obviously a long time, a lot of hours on the bus. I'm sure some of it will be a drag. I definitely think it will be good. We have some new faces here, young guys, and just to be around each other more — I really think the more you get to know somebody off the ice, the better you'll play with them on the ice." (Portland Tribune)

I've never been on a road trip like this ... and Wrenn's from Alaska.

A couple of teams have already had their massive swings. The aforementioned Brandon Wheat Kings are 3-2-0-0 thus far on a seven-game, 13-day swing through the Western Conference. The Prince George Cougars, who log more travel miles than any Canadian Hockey League team, also were on the road for seven. Here's five more long trips other teams will look forward to:

9 games in 16 days — Kootenay Ice, Nov. 19-Dec. 4

The Cranbrook, B.C.-based Ice are often the buffer between the Eastern and Western conferences, so presumably they often get teams either at the beginning or end of a road trip. Here's the tradeoff. The Ice have a stretch of games that begins with a ferry ride to Victoria, B.C., to play the Royals and ends all the way in Swift Current.

Suggested road trip movie — Due Date.

9 in 16 — Everett Silvertips, Oct. 22-Nov. 6

Teams in the U.S. Division have a tough deal with travel. Everett, which has won just two of its first 10 games, starts out with some in-state games this weekend vs. Seattle and Spokane, then head north to Alberta for five games in a row. The trip is so long they'll actually play the Spokane Chiefs twice. Also, pursuant to the previous paragraph, there's a game in Kootenay.

Suggested road trip movie — Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

8 in 16 — Moose Jaw Warriors, Dec. 30-Jan. 14

Nice way to start the second half after the holiday break. The Warriors will host Edmonton in their first post-Christmas game, then it's two weeks of playing away from home. The bulk of it is a six-game swing to the Pacific Northwest and (where else?) Kootenay, followed by another bus trip to play back-to-backs vs. Calgary and Medicine Hat.

Suggested road trip movie — National Lampoon's Vacation.

8 in 13 — Red Deer Rebels, Feb. 17-29

This is actually two trips in one. The Rebels have a four-game swing through British Columbia that includes a schlep up to Prince George, then go home for a couple of days to rest, then head east across the Prairies to play four more game. As if not having Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was not daunting enough!

Suggested road trip movie — Dumb and Dumber.

6 in 9 — Seattle Thunderbirds, Nov. 4-12

The Thunderbirds' six-game swing through Alberta includes playing on back-to-back nights twice. Not exactly a winning proposition. Guess where the last stop is on the trip? (Hint: rhymes with ootenay.)
Suggested road trip movie — Road Trip.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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