A lot of hockey coaches and general managers don’t mind a road trip early in the year to give the team a chance to bond.
The Prince George Cougars schedule for the upcoming season, though, might be taking things too far. The Cougars play Prince Albert at the CN Centre on Oct. 8, then don’t see another game on home ice for three weeks, when they host Brandon.
General manager Dallas Thompson says it wasn’t the Cougars’ choice to play nine straight games on the road.
“We were faced with all that’s happening at the CN Centre in October, and it meant there were three weekends in a row we couldn’t play here, so we ended up on the road.”
He does point out some positives to the long road-game stretch.
“We’re not going to be on the road for three weeks straight. There are a few days off here and there.”
The trip’ starts with a swing to Kamloops and Kelowna on Oct. 10 and 11. Then it’s the first Eastern swing of the season between with games in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer between Oct. 15 and 18, and games in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Kootenay and Spokane between Oct. 21 and 25.
“We like to get one of the eastern trips out of the way early,” Thompson said, “and we have to learn to win on the road, so we might as well do it early.”
The long road stretch also “lets us spread out the games at home and on the road for the rest of the season,” he says.
There are three protracted homestands this season, with the Cougars at home for seven games between Nov. 21 and Dec. 10, six games between Jan. 30 and Feb. 10 and the last seven home games of the year between Feb. 20 and March 7.
“At the end of the year, we’re out of the building between March 10 and 15, so we had to finish the season on the road,” Thompson says. “It’s actually a pretty good schedule once we get past October.”
The Cougars open the regular season at home with a doubleheader against Seattle on Sept. 19 and 20.
As usual, many of the Cougars’ weekend games are doubleheaders against the same opponent. The one exception is at the end of November, when Regina and Saskatoon visit on consecutive days.