Canada West move means longer road trips for athletes
Literally speaking, the Cougars move to Canada West is huge.
They move from playing in a single province (outside of Briercrest College in Saskatchewan) to battling over four provinces from Manitoba through to British Columbia.
Players will go from competing in a single time zone to flying through three.
And from single day road trips to spending three or four days straight on the road.
“They will have to learn to be on the road from a Thursday night ‘til a Sunday morning whereas our students will go out on a Friday afternoon and come back on a Friday night,” explained Karla Karch, Cougars athletics director. “Except for a couple of road trips, they have not experienced the rigors of being a university or Canada West athlete.”
Let’s compare the schedules of the men’s hockey team from Mount Royal and University of Calgary.
Right now, the longest road trip the Cougars take during the regular season is to Briercrest College, about a seven-hour trip to Caronport, Sask., 15 minutes west of Moose Jaw.
For the rest of the season, the Cougars will play a series of home-and-home series against the other teams in the ACAC, with the overnight trip to Briercrest on Nov. 25.
When it comes to the University of Calgary, they spend about half of their season playing overnight games on the road. They have overnight trips against the universities of Manitoba, Regina, Saskatchewan and British Columbia for a total of five weekends. The only teams the U of C plays on one night are Universities of Lethbridge and Alberta.
Cougars head coach Jean Laforest said they will run with a similar setup as their cross-town counterparts, including flights to Manitoba and British Columbia.
“Right now, we are basically Edmonton back-to-back,” he said. “That’s easy travel, it’s only three hours.”
But the majority of the players have already experienced plenty of life on the road, mostly in their life in the Western Hockey League where teams will spend a week or two on the road at a time.
“The guys that we are looking at recruiting and guys who have played in Western Canada are used to long trips,” he said. “It’s not like you are inheriting recruits out Ontario where two hours of travel down the 401 is a long bus ride.
“They are used to it. They are weathered, which suits what we are about to experience obviously something next year.
“These long road trips for them, they are going to be absolutely fine with it,” Laforest added. “I don’t anticipate any problems.”
However, in the case of a team like women’s basketball, it’s going to be a brand-new experience.
With it, head coach Joe Enevoldson planned a rigorous exhibition season that included three stops in three nights between Vancouver, B.C. and ending in Kamloops against Thompson Rivers University.
“On the Saturday against (Kamloops), we were fatigued in the second half,” he said
“We wanted to make it over-exaggerated and as tough as possible,” he added, with that travel schedule unlikely in the Canada West.
As well, he said it will be harder for students with the amount of time on the road. “Academically, it puts more ownership on time management,” Enevoldson said. “In terms of rest, recovering, sleeping an extra night in a hotel room, it’s more of a wear-and-tear and a tougher conference to play in.”
And let’s not forget about playoffs.
When the Cougars start winning Canada West titles, they’ll be traveling across Canada to compete in the national championships.
Check back next issue as we look at the cost of the move to Canada West.