PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers have experienced some of the hardships struggling teams often endure in the NHL, and they haven't exactly liked it.
Several players privately blamed Saturday's 5-1 loss in Calgary on a penny-pinching travel itinerary they say left them exhausted. Travel plans for last week's trip to Vancouver and Calgary and this week's trip to San Jose and Los Angeles have been the subject of spirited discussion between players and management.
"It took its toll against Calgary, there's no question about that," team captain Rick Tocchet said Monday. "There's nothing we can do about it now. . . . You've got to go into San Jose and win. There's no use crying over spilt milk."
There was a time when the Flyers organization was known for spending extra money for charter flights on tough road trips. The Flyers were one of the NHL's showcase franchises, and management seemed to want to help out the Bob Clarkes, Tim Kerrs and Mark Howes any way it could.
Just last March, the Flyers chartered a plane formerly used by Madonna to ease the awkward connections on a crucial Western swing through Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles and Vancouver. But that trip turned into a 1-3 disaster that fueled the Flyers' late-season collapse. This season, after two straight springs with no playoff customers spinning the Spectrum turnstiles, management seems much less solicitous of the players' needs.
For the Vancouver-Calgary trip, the Flyers cut a deal with United Airlines to fly out of Philadelphia on a 6 a.m. flight Thursday, with a 2 1/2 -hour layover in Chicago before an afternoon practice in Vancouver. They played to a 1-1 tie with the Canucks Friday, then left immediately for Calgary, where they got in about 3 a.m. Saturday, the day of the game. Then, on Sunday, they took an early flight out of Calgary and connected through Spokane and Chicago before arriving home after dark. The arrangement apparently sliced about half the normal $1,200-per-passenger fare for such a trip.
In previous years, the Flyers would have spent the five-day break between the Calgary and San Jose games resting up and practicing in California. This time, much to many players' displeasure, they came home.
"There were a lot of options that were suggested," Tocchet said. "Put it this way: It would have been nice to do a lot of things, but it's management's decision that we came back, and we can't worry about it. . . . The decision is made and we have to live with it."