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Blackhawks embark on 7-city, 13-day road trip



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Updated: December 20, 2013 6:22AM

For the people behind the scenes for the Blackhawks, the annual circus trip is a logistical nightmare. They must wrangle and manage all the extra equipment, all the extra provisions, all the travel, hotel rooms and meals required to put together a seven-city, 13-day adventure.

For the Hawks themselves, though, everything’s simpler on the road. And maybe a little more fun, too.

‘‘Every time you’re on the road, the guys hang out a little more,’’ winger Patrick Kane said. ‘‘There’s no distractions. You’re not going back home to your families; you’re going back home to your hotel and hanging out with each other. It’s always good to bond with each other and hang out a little bit.’’

The Hawks do two of these monster trips a season — when the circus comes to the United Center in November and when ‘‘Disney on Ice’’ takes over in January. The ice-show trip last season, which came barely a week into the shortened season and ended up 4-0-2, was the catalyst for the Hawks’ remarkable 21-0-3 start. The players credited the trip for bringing the team closer after the lengthy lockout and for building on the chemistry they already had.

But while a good road trip can springboard a team to big things, a bad road trip can feel like a death march. The Hawks lost the first seven games of the ice-show trip two seasons ago, making every flight and bus ride feel twice as long. They lost in the first round of the playoffs two months later.

‘‘It’ll be a good test for us,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘We’ve got to go into some tough buildings, and we’re away for an extended period of time. We’ll find out a lot about our team and individuals, as well.’’

The circus trip is particularly well-timed for winger Kris Versteeg and goalie Antti Raanta, both of whom are new to the
roster. For Versteeg, it’s a chance to catch up with old friends. For Raanta, it’s a chance to become one of the guys.

There’ll be plenty of late-night card games at the hotel and
maybe a movie night or two, too. The Hawks will have a Thanksgiving-style meal available throughout the day in Dallas after they fly in from Calgary, and Kane said the team — Americans, Canadians and Europeans alike — usually gathers for turkey and football, like everybody else. Center Andrew Shaw said there are always a few pranks, but there won’t be any
video games — no teamwide
Mario Kart tournaments this time.

‘‘That’s only a playoff thing,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘We don’t do that. Too much to set up and pack up.’’

There are plenty of other things to pack up, but that’s for the equipment managers, athletic trainers and other staff members to worry about. Aside from packing a couple of extra suits — Kane said three should be enough for him — everything’s simpler on the road for the Hawks, from the scaled-back style of play to the distraction-free ‘‘home’’ life at the hotel.

‘‘It’s fun to go on this trip every November,’’ winger Patrick Sharp said. ‘‘There’s less distractions on the road. We love playing in ­Chicago in front of our fans, but this circus trip is on the calendar, and we look forward to it.’’

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