Icelandair did some research into travel distance for the big five North American sports leagues (MLB, NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLS), and dug up some fun results. Did you know that the Oakland Raiders traveled the most as a percentage of miles traveled in their league and are also terrible? I bet that you knew at least half of that statement before you read this blog post. Did you know that if your team is in the Western half of the United States they’re going to travel more than if they were in the Eastern half with its close metro area placements? Of course you all did, because you’re fans of a team in the Western half of the country that is forced to travel to California and Western Canada twice a season.
The chart for the whole NHL is very enlightening:
The Western Conference dominates the top half of the teams. The league average distance travelled was 40,778 miles, and the only Western team that came in under that somehow were the Los Angeles Kings. The Colorado Avalanche’s top spot is also surprising, considering one would think that Edmonton or Vancouver would own that position. The most shocking of all are the poor Florida Panthers, who exceeded the league average by 3617 miles, proving that Florida is indeed the longest state in the country and the worst to drive the length of.
The Panthers are the only team in the East with room for complaint. The teams over there, especially those in the Metro, benefit from their main opponents being a hop, skip, and jump away. The Penguins and the Devils are probably the clearest beneficiaries of the close geography - though I don’t think that anti-Penguins conspiracy theorists have much to work with here. The NHL obviously does not love the Devils, Scott Stevens deal notwithstanding.
The Blues traveled the 12th most in the league last season, with a winning percentage of 57.3, and missed the playoffs by a point. Did that have anything to do with how much they traveled?
You can probably cross that excuse off the list.
The Buffalo Sabres traveled the third fewest miles on that list and missed the playoffs by a mile. There doesn’t seem to be that much correlation between travel and winning percentage.
The whole report is worth a look-see. Keep in mind that it doesn’t include the speed of the schedule, like having back to back games in distant cities, that could influence how tired a team is as far as performance goes. But when you look at distance itself, there doesn’t seem to be much room for excuses.