Pack your long johns: Jets head to Alaska
JANESVILLE What do you do in Alaska in the middle of January besides play hockey?
Ask the Janesville Jets for the answer when the 23 players and two coaches for the North American Hockey League team return from an ambitious 11-day road trip to Fairbanks and Kenai River.
The Jets' bus leaves Janesville at 2 p.m. Wednesday to make a 6 p.m. flight to Fairbanks from Chicago's O'Hare International. The Jets play Fairbanks on Friday and Saturday. Janesville spends the week in Kenai River and returns to O'Hare on a red-eye flight Saturday night after completing a two-game weekend series.
Jets coach Joe Dibble spoke for most of the Jets about the upcoming trip.
"I've never been to Alaska," Dibble said. "It's going to be an experience.''
The traveling contingent does not include an equipment manager.
"Players are responsible for their own stuff," Dibble said. "You take care of your own skates.''
Skate sharpeners and repair equipment are provided. Ice time for practice is available.
"We'll have time to practice," Dibble said. "We gave the Alaska teams an hour-and-a-half to two hours a day when they were here.''
Besides equipment, the players have to do their own laundry, including uniforms, either at the hotel or a local laundry.
"The hotel laundry will be made available, or if not, we'll just cruise on to a local laundry and wash as much gear as we can," Dibble said.
Fairbanks and Kenai River each played back-to-back series last September in Janesville. The Jets split both two-game series, including a pair of shootouts with Kenai River.
The Jets paid for housing and feeding the Alaska teams when they were in town earlier this season. Fairbanks and Kenai River will do the same for the Jets in Alaska.
The 10-day forecast for Fairbanks pegs temperatures between single digits and minus 9 through Saturday. Predicted Kenai River temperatures are slated between 27 and 9 degrees.
Janesville is 5-5 through its last 10 games and 15-16-6 overall. Fairbanks is 23-10-1 and Kenai River is 14-16-4.
The Fairbanks franchise is considered the jewel of the NAHL from its facilities to a large fan base.
Dibble said there is no right way to prepare managing the long trip.
"It's just kind of day-to-day preparation for us," Dibble said. "You've got to be professional.''