For any hockey player, travel is part of the game experience. Long bus rides build camaraderie among players. At the NHL level, a private plane charter is the preferred mode of transport. For minor league hockey, it’s an unheard of luxury. On the San Francisco Bulls’ most recent sojourn to Alaska to meet the Aces for a three game series, the team traveled commercial, taking a circuitous route to Anchorage. The flight back was even more grueling, with weather delays putting the team’s total travel time over the eighteen-hour mark. They came home winning two out of their three match-ups with the Aces. They lost their next game against the Stockton Thunder a couple days following the plane marathon; it doesn’t take a genius to suggest that travel exhaustion may have contributed to the boys not being on top of their game.
The next big road trip was to Idaho, to face the 3rd place Steelheads. A bus ride would prove the less expensive option and the Bulls team traveled over the Sierra Nevadas and through eastern Oregon to Boise, 14 hours of travel time. The Bulls split the series, boarding the bus right after scoring five unanswered goals for the win, putting a smile on Coach Curcio’s face and the bus rocking to music courtesy of their new Captain, defenceman Scott Langdon. They were going home one player short though, Marek Viedensky, on loan from the Worcester Sharks, got the call-up and caught a flight to the East Coast.
Less than twelve hours later, the SF Bulls Weekly radio show on KNBR.com with the “Voice of the Bulls” Jason Lockhart, brought in D-man Mikael Tam for a chat. Lockhart had tried to have him on the show earlier in the season but Tam has spent most of his time away from the San Francisco Bulls, having been a frequent call-up to the Worcester Sharks. He has appeared in 20 games in his first season in the AHL, and his most recent stint involved traveling to St Johns, Newfoundland where the Sharks swept the IceCaps in a two game series. Tam says he is getting used to all the cross- country travel, having gone from San Francisco to Worcester four times already this season. Traveling coast to coast is not easy, it means a lot of living out of your bags and as soon as you get to know your roommate, you move on.
Tam also has had to adjust to the level of play at the ECHL, which moves at a much different pace. The AHL is faster, the guys bigger and more physical in their play. Tam says that as a D-Man he has to move the puck faster in the AHL, there is just not as much space. With all of the call-ups to Worcester it’s become easier and more comfortable as a result to play at the ECHL level with the Bulls.
As the Bulls begin yet another road trip back to Idaho, this time flying there and busing back, let’s hope that some of that ease with which Tam works the blueline carries to his linemates, before he gets the call back cross-country. Go Bulls Go!