Second-half schedule offers respite for Blazers
The Kamloops Blazers’ resident travel agent, media co-ordinator Tim O’Donovan, has it easy in the second half of the Western Hockey League’s regular season.
After spending 23 nights in hotels in the first half, the Blazers will find accommodation on the road only nine times after the Christmas break.
“We had a tough first half, playing 20 of our road games, with two big trips into Alberta,” said Dave Hunchak, the Blazers’ associate coach.
“If we can spread our schedule in the second half, that lends to us being healthier, No. 1, and being fresher, whether it’s at home or on the road.”
The Blazers have 16 road games in the second half — 12 of them are against B.C. Division opponents and none of them are against Eastern Conference teams.
For Kamloops, the toughest road stretch will run from Jan. 11 to Jan. 18, during which the Blazers play twice in Prince George, twice in Victoria and once in Kennewick, Wash.
The Blazers stumbled into the holidays, losing three straight, once in overtime, to cap a four-game Alberta road swing.
After taking the league by storm in September and October, the Blue and Orange cooled off in November and December, allowing the Portland Winterhawks to enter the break atop the Western Conference.
The Blazers, at 25-9-2-2, are in second place with 54 points.
Portland, at 28-5-1, has played four fewer games than Kamloops.
Perhaps fatigue caught up with the River City club as it coasted to the end of the first half.
The home stretch of the second half is much less taxing.
The Blazers play five of their last seven regular-season games at Interior Savings Centre.
Away from the ice, the players can use the lighter second-half schedule to catch up on schoolwork, while the team’s travelling staff is looking forward to becoming re-acquainted with family, friends and significant others.
“I’m very fortunate to have married a very good woman who puts up with a lot of stuff,” said Hunchak, whose team returns to action in Kelowna against the Rockets on Dec. 27.
“Any time you can spend time at home, whether you’re watching your kids do sport or school activities, or just being around the house, it’s real important.”
Did you know?
Media man, slash video coach, slash office-staff member, slash travel agent Tim O’Donovan — the Kordell Stewart of the Blue and Orange — is responsible for booking hotels on the road.
Prior to O’Donovan, it was now departed assistant coach Scott Ferguson who handled accomodation planning.
When possible, the Blazers stay at a Sandman Hotel — owned by Tom Gaglardi, majority owner of the Blazers.