Panthers and Oilers Embark on Longest Stanley Cup Trip in NHL History

Panthers Oilers Longest Trip

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Sunrise, FL – Hopefully you saved up your airline miles for the Stanley Cup Final this year. This year’s matchup between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers will be the longest trip between two cities in NHL history, with the two teams playing 2,541 miles apart. This barely edges out the 2,499 miles traveled between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 final.

Planning The Trip

If you’re traveling commercial, it will take at least one layover whether you’re flying from Ft. Lauderdale or Miami, with most flights stopping in Toronto, Montreal, Denver, Atlanta (obviously), and Minneapolis, with at least eight hours of total travel.

Of course, the Oilers and Panthers will each be traveling nonstop in their own charter planes. The Panthers plane, a Delta Airlines Boeing 757, is set up with all first-class seats for maximum comfort.

Each player has different routines for their flights. At this time of year, a lot of guys will use the approximately seven-hour flight to recover their bodies from the grueling playoff run.

Honestly, a lot of time to catch up on some sleep, especially on this flight,” Panthers winger Sam Reinhart said. “I mean, we’re both in it, we’re both sitting on that flight. So nothing changes from a recovery standpoint. All year, you kind of learn what works for you. It’s so important, especially in a playoff run, to take care of yourself.

The Schedule

After clinching the Eastern Conference at home on June 1, the Panthers get to stay in Sunrise for the first two games of the finals, beginning June 8. The National Hockey League inserted an extra travel day each time the teams switch cities, meaning there will be two off days every time the teams have to travel, instead of one.

While a seven-hour flight isn’t common, the Oilers and Panthers are both used to being on planes longer than their conference foes because of their extreme positioning on the NHL map – Florida being the southernmost team and Edmonton being the northernmost.

Both teams have almost identical travel over the year,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said. “They got Calgary, we got Tampa. Two teams, one province. Two teams, one state. And then everything else is a long flight. They’re used to it there. That’s part of how they operate. It’s the same with us, getting on a plane for five hours. You probably wouldn’t sign up for it. But we all know how to deal with it.

With Edmonton also clinching a spot in the Cup Final just one day after Florida did so, both teams have roughly the same amount of rest. However, the journey across the continent, in itself, will be a challenge for both teams.

How To Pass The Time

It’s gonna be a long flight,” Carter Verhaeghe said. “I think it’s getting rest when you need it. …I think recovery is the biggest thing. I think whenever you get on the plane, when you get there, you gotta get your body right to get what it needs for the day, or what you need to do to feel good the next day. Whether it’s sleeping, or going on the bike, or something like that. Whatever you need to do, kind of thing. Everyone is different. I think that has been our whole team’s mindset, just trying to get your body ready to play.

Verhaeghe and Tkachuk said they like to play poker on the flights. Verhaeghe said teammate Gustav Forsling is probably the best poker player on the team, but added that the success “all goes around.”

Anton Lundell, who said he abstains from playing poker to “save the money” is going to finish some movies and shows, such as “White Collar” on Netflix.

Whether in Sunrise or Edmonton, both teams know the atmosphere of each arena will be the same. The Panthers are 6-3 at Amerant Bank Arena this postseason, while the Oilers are 5-3 at Rogers Place.

Every city thinks they have the loudest building,” Maurice said. “Theirs is gonna be loud, ours is gonna be loud. … If (Rogers Center) was a 40,000 seat arena, they could probably fill it for an event like this.

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