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USHL Perspective: The Good Ol' Fashioned Road Trip Junior Hockey News

Published: Sunday, 14 Oct 2012  
By: Ryan Scott

If you have questions about the landscape of the Midwest, chances are good that a USHL player can give you answers.  Junior hockey players are no strangers to the bus, and the USHL is no different. Players log an incredible amount of hours riding the bus throughout the course of the season.  A large part of home ice advantage lays in the fact that the visiting team spent either the entire day or previous night on the bus.  Depending on the city, average USHL bus trips can range up to seven hours with the longest being upwards of twelve.

            When I joined the USHL in 2005, there were only eleven teams in the league. It turned out that my organization, the Indiana Ice, was the eastern-most team in the league.  As a perk, teams from the western conference despised the long Indiana trip, possibly giving us an even greater home ice advantage.  But it was definitely balanced by the fact that our shortest trip-besides Chicago-was at least seven hours that year.  Junior hockey is not a glamorous lifestyle.  Most teams don't have the budget for an extra night of hotels and meals, so as result, we spent a lot of nights trying to sleep on the bus in preparation for the weekend's away games.  There was also the issue of "bus legs"-the expression used for the condition of having stiff legs from riding the bus all day.  We had mandatory mall walks in the middle of long trips to try and combat bus legs, but unfortunately it wasn't always effective.

            So what exactly do players these days on the 15-hour Tri-City trip?  Movies, card games, and prank calls are always popular choices, but it's not always fun and games on the bus.  If teams are in the middle of a losing streak, the bus may be a bit quieter than usual.  The return bus trips can be interesting as well depending on the result of the game.  First of all, there is nothing worse than bussing across 4 states and getting waxed by the home team.  It's a terrible feeling on the bus coming home because it makes the trip seem like it was pointless-"we drove 15 hours to lose?"  Secondly, you never want your coach in bad mood (or in a worse mood than usual if he's a normal junior coach).  Losing on the road is never a mood-lifter, so it was not unusual to sit in darkness and silence after a road loss.  The road win, however, is a fantastic mood-lifter for coaches, and you'll definitely be watching funny movies on the trip home. 

Aside from winning and losing, the roadtrip, or "roadie" as it is commonly referred to, is a sacred part of junior hockey.  Bus trips are the times when teammates really get to know one-another, and the bus driver becomes an honorary team member for the weekend.  It's all about the team when you step foot on the bus, getting the win is all that matters. It's a simple life on the road: eat, sleep, hockey, and repeat.  I personally think that it's funny to characterize it in such a simple way, but it's actually a pretty realistic interpretation given the fact teams travel hundreds of miles for 60 minutes of hockey.  There's nothing special about getting home at 5am and having to clean the bus and defrost your car, yet these are the type of unique memories I have that make up the junior hockey experience.

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