Most NHL players have reasonable commutes to work during the hockey season. But their commutes back to their NHL cities at the end of summer can be somewhat arduous. Few players remain in their NHL cities over the summer; most return to their homes at various points around the globe. For European players, it’s a long and sometimes uncomfortable flight back to the States for the start of the season. Most of those flights are over in less than 10 hours, though. Lots of players coming from western Canada face drives twice as long as those flights, and those drives generally take more than one day on the road.
This fall, we’re taking a look at some of those commutes back to D.C. Today, it’s Jay Beagle’s 2,300-mile trek from his Calgary to the District. Beagle made the drive with his wife Ashley, plus their pets, a dog and a cat.
“Thirty-six road hours,” says Beagle of his journey. “We split it into three days. We go 14, then 12 and then 10. We try to do a big chunk the first day, depending on how the pets are doing. But the dog was not happy this time; it needed some stops, was antsy.
“She’s a rescue dog. We actually don’t know what [breed] it is. She’s an awesome dog. If I had to guess, I’d say it has German shepherd, hound and lab in it. Loves to hunt, loves to sniff around and chase things. She got sprayed by a skunk this summer. I thought she would learn her lesson, but the next day she was out in the backyard chasing animals again. And we’ve got a cat, too.”
Even though Beagle had his wife alongside, he did all of the driving.
“No, I drive the whole way,” he declares. “She offers to drive. I just can’t be a passenger. I’m really bad at sitting there and not being in control. And she’s fine with it. If I ever got really tired she could. I drove to Alaska and back four times [when I was in school there] and it’s about the same number of kilometers, although it takes a little longer because of the terrain.
“I like to drive. If she picks me up form somewhere, I won’t tell her to get out. If she picks me up from the airport or something like that, then she’ll drive. But if we’re both getting into the car [together], then I’m driving every time.”
The Beagles will listen to some music during their long ride, but they’ve got many more activities lined up to pass the many hours away on the road.
“We do music and audio books,” says Beagle. “We did ‘Game of Thrones.’ We got into that. Ash also reads, like if she’s into a good book, she’ll read it out loud. We actually went through a whole book on this last trip coming back. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was an African war book, a true story about this kid growing up during the war and it was pretty incredible just to hear the stories and about his journey to New York. You do something like that and all of a sudden four hours go by. Then it’s time to stop reading and stop for lunch. It eats up the time, which is nice.
“Ash is also pretty creative. She makes up these little board games to play where it’s basically like bingo. Maybe you have to find a two-door car, a water tower, a semi or a charter bus. And then you play bingo, so you’ve got to get five in a row. She comes up with games like that, and with license plates. So we have a couple of games and those can take up about an hour. We enjoy those.
“At the time, you’re kind of frustrated with the drive just because it’s a long day in the car. But honestly at the end of it, you’re like, ‘That wasn’t that bad.’ It’s more leading up to it that you’re dreading it.”
When you’re driving for three days, you’re also spending two nights in hotels along the way. How do you determine where to stay?
“That’s always the question,” admits Beagle. “We’ve stayed in some shady spots. Last year coming back, I swore we would have had bed bugs. We were getting out of there. The place we stayed, we didn’t sleep all night. It was awful. Then you’re back on the road and you’re even more tired; you would have been better off driving all night. Now we stay at Quality Inns.”
Ah, but finding the Quality Inn can be another in a series of road trip activities for the Beagles. There are no electronics involved in the search.
“We sort of map it out,” says Beagle, “but we never phone ahead and book it. We always just drive until we kind of start to get tired and we figure it out from there. Neither of us have smart phones, so it’s tough. It’s tricky. We have to stop in a town and we basically just look around. We do it the old school way. We make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be.
“I have an old flip phone that’s about five years old. And I always get chirped pretty hard by all the guys. But it still works. I always tell them, I will always give it to them when we’re out to dinner and everybody’s on their phone. I’m like, ‘Hey guys, I’m right here. You don’t have to text me; I’m right across the table.’ So we always give it to each other back and forth. They’re always on their phones, and I obviously have a flip phone.
“But when my flip phone dies I’ve got to get a smart phone. I’ll get a smart phone eventually. If [the flip phone] works, I’m not changing it and I don’t actually use my phone that much. I really don’t. I’m not a big internet guy. I check the internet maybe once a month. I’m not on the internet or on the computer at all.”