Good afternoon from LAX, where the Kings, their partners, assembled media and league representatives have boarded the charter to Shanghai. Our landing is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Monday, local time. (That’s 2:05 a.m. L.A. time.)
Before busing to LAX, the team practiced at Toyota Sports Center and were color coded as such:
Defensive pairs were Forbort-Doughty, Muzzin-Martinez, Fantenberg-Folin and MacDermid-LaDue.
Coverage from China will be a mix of season preparation reporting complemented by the sights and sounds of such a unique experience as viewed by the players, coaches and those lucky to hang around (guilty!). There will be lots of photos. I’m hoping you’ll be able to follow along on both Twitter and Instagram (professional/personal); so bear with any delays or lapses in coverage and reporting, and for most stories to appear in the middle of the night, Los Angeles time.
We’ll be in Shanghai through Thursday night before flying to Beijing Friday morning and visiting the Great Wall. Game times are 7:30 p.m. in Shanghai on Thursday and 3:30 p.m. in Beijing on Saturday, which, because of the 15-hour time difference, equates to 4:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. L.A. time. Both games will be broadcast on NHL Network; neither game will be broadcast locally on KABC 790. (Friday’s preseason game at Anaheim will be broadcast by Nick Nickson and Joey Zakrzewski on KABC 790 and I Heart Radio. Tomorrow’s preseason game at Arizona has been canceled because of ice conditions at Gila River Arena and replaced by a 10:00 a.m. intrasquad scrimmage; more on this shortly.)
I spoke with the players about their plans for the 14-hour flight. Drew Doughty expects to sit next to Trevor Lewis, which should be convenient when the video game battles start. (Several players bought Nintendo Switch consoles for the flights.)
“We’ll all be Mario Karting it for a bit,” Doughty said. “I didn’t bring my Xbox. I was going to do that. Yeah, I’ll just sleep and play Nintendo and watch movies, I guess.”
Christian Folin, on the other hand, will probably get some podcast time in.
“There have been a couple crimes in Swedish history that I’m listening to right now,” the Gothenberg native said. “There’s a big [story] – kind of like Apple in Sweden, they sell a lot of computer stuff, and the manager’s son just got kidnapped, actually, and disappeared, so I’m going to listen to that one on the plane.”
(The son was found a month later, so there’s a good ending to the story.)
Meanwhile, it’s a new beginning for Folin, who signed a one-year contract over the off-season after three seasons in Minnesota. This trip, which will help team bonding and camaraderie in advance of the season, comes at a good time for the team’s new players.
“Yeah, it’s going to be great,” he said. “But at the same time, I’ve been here for two weeks now, and the guys here are really nice. It’s really easy to get into the group. They know each other from before, so it’s kind of been easy for me and Darcy [Kuemper] just to get in there and get to know ‘em. They’re really easy to deal with. It’s been so far, so good, but this trip is definitely going to help with that.”
The longest flight Folin has ever taken was just shy of 11 hours – the Amsterdam-to-Los Angeles leg he flew en route from Sweden in advance of training camp. For Nic Dowd, the longest flight he’d ever been on was a Minneapolis-to-Anchorage flight that many Midwest-based college hockey players took en route to play the University of Alaska or the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
“Hopefully I’ll sleep for half of it. Maybe watch one movie. I don’t know,” he said. “We have a nice little [sleeping] pod, probably. Hopefully good WiFi – who knows. Me and Muzz were saying we should’ve brought board games.”
He’s up to date on his favorite shows, but if there’s a chance to binge-watch some television, there’s a good chance he’ll check off a couple episodes of Fargo. He’ll also be keeping a journal chronicling his experience that can be accessed this week at NHL.com.
Earlier this week, John Stevens said that the flight will be “an opportunity for coaches to sit down with, whether D-pairs, lines, look at some things to keep them interactive.”
“They’re going to sleep for a little bit on the plane, but there’s a plan to get everybody up and keep them awake so we don’t get to China and be wide awake, because if we slept the whole trip – Matt Price has even put together a little dynamic warm-up or activity if the guys want to get up and move around the plane. That’s offered and available to them, if they want. There’s been a lot of planning and prep done to try and give the players every opportunity to feel good when they go over there and fully recover when they get back.”
And while the experience will be remembered long beyond the results of this current preseason, this is still a work trip, and the players will do what they need to do to get ready for the start of the season.
“I mean, it’s a good experience. I’ve done these types of things before,” said Dustin Brown, who has traveled to London, Hamburg, Stockholm and Berlin with the clubs between NHL Premiere events in 2007 and 2011. “Obviously this is [my] first time in this part of the world, so it’ll be different in a good way. You try to enjoy the experience and get what you need from it, because at the end of the day we’re playing two games over there that you’ve got to put the work in and get prepared for the real thing.”