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November 12, 2008

Pete Michaud: Life on the Road


Hello, fans, from New England (Lowell, Massachusetts..to be specific), where the Admirals are in the middle of a 2-week, 7-game road trip! I?ve had many fans over the years ask what life on the road with the Admirals is like, so I thought I?d give you a bit of insight.

For the Admirals, road trips always mean long bus rides. Philadelphia, which is just over 5 hours from Norfolk, is our shortest trip, so getting comfortable on the bus is key. The Admirals are fortunate to not have to ride on a standard coach bus, like many other teams. We either take an ?executive? bus, which features larger, padded leather seats or we go on a ?sleeper? bus, which converts to 28 bunks. We took the sleeper bus on this trip. The sleeper bus is divided into 2 sections. The front section has 10 bunks, a restroom, a sink, refrigerator and microwave oven. The coaches, support staff and 4 or 5 players are up front. The back section holds the remaining 18 bunks.

It was about an 11-hour ride to Lowell to start this trip. We spend a lot of time on the bus. In fact, the coaching staff often sits on the bus in the hotel parking lot to watch hockey games on ?off? nights on the road. We?re lucky enough to have access to the NHL ?Center Ice? package on the bus. If we?re not watching hockey, players bring lots of movies. We watched ?300,? the Spartan battle epic, coming to Lowell. Players in the back of the bus can watch something different from those of us sitting in the front. The two TVs can get different channels or watch different DVDs.

One of the problems for a long trip like this is how to pack. Players try to bring as little as possible. Most, regardless of the length of a trip, will bring just one suit. I?ve known a lot of guys at this level who didn?t even own more than one suit! Players usually have to wear suits to games, unless we?re traveling right after the game. Then, they might be allowed to wear ?track? suits. The coach dictates what the dress code will be. It?s tougher for the support staff?coaches, G.M.s and broadcasters. Most trips mean bringing 2 or 3 suits with a larger selection of suits and ties. The Admirals do not require players to wear ties with suits.

Players spend a lot of time wearing ?track? outfits, the team-issued athletic wear. This year?s track suits are navy blue with an ?admirals hockey? logo designed, in part, by Head Coach Darren Rumble. On this trip, every player on the team also got a new hat, a white cap with a red star and a large, blue ?N? on the front. If they aren?t wearing track suits, most of the players wear jeans when they can. Some teams don?t allow jeans on the road, but the Admirals do.

A big thing on any long trip for a player is the ?rooming? list. The players usually have different roommates each trip. In fact, their roommate might even change during the course of a single road trip if we stay at different hotels on a trip. The Admirals are staying at 5 different hotels on this long trip. The coaching staff makes the rooming list, and players are not able to make changes. With more than 20 players on a team, you?re normally dealing with more than 20 different personalities. Some guys go to sleep early. Others watch TV until late at night. Some like their rooms very warm, while others like it cold. So, it?s important to get a roomie you can get along with. The support staff, the coaches, trainer, equipment manager and broadcaster, is lucky enough to get single rooms on the road.

A lot of factors go into where we stay on the road. For players, what makes a great hotel? Location and amenities are very important. Guys love staying at hotels within walking distance of the rink. Many players like to go to the rink early, so a hotel close to the rink, like we get in Binghamton, Portland or Wilkes-Barre, is great. Otherwise, the bus usually leaves for the rink so they get to the area just over 2 hours before game time. The training staff will usually take a cab to get the rink an hour or two before the players. If I can, I also like to get there 1-2 hours before the players, but sometimes that?s just not possible.

When we have an ?off? day on the road, players love a hotel that has nearby restaurants, a mall or a movie theatre. The selection of eateries hasn?t been a luxury here in Lowell, where there?s an Outback Steakhouse and a Chili?s about a 7-8 minute walk away, but that?s it. We had a team meal at the Outback after the win Tuesday to start the trip. There is a theatre right next to the Outback, however, so some of the players have been able to kill some time over there. While there isn?t much here in Lowell, it does have a train station that runs straight into downtown Boston. A majority of the players went into Boston to spend the day after practice on Wednesday.

Another HUGE key to a road hotel is if they offer free, high-speed internet. Luckily, most hotels do these days. Oddly, the more upscale hotels tend to be the ones that don?t give free internet. We HATE hotels (like in Springfield or Bridgeport, for example) that charge $10 a day for the internet. Of course, all internet isn?t created equally. The internet here in Lowell is terrible slow, which is giving the coaches fits as they try to download game video to scout upcoming opponents on this trip.

Well, that gives you just a bit of insight into life on the road. If I can answer any questions, feel free to email me and I?ll answer in an upcoming edition. That?s it for now. Another blog entry comes up soon. Until then?

Pete (pete@norfolkadmirals.com)




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