Sochi, Russia certainly isn’t Winnipeg Manitoba, but for Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets, joining Team USA isn’t that much different.
After completing the marathon plane ride from Newark, New Jersey, Wheeler finally got the opportunity to settle in to his accommodations, and most importantly, hit the ice with his new teammates.
“I don’t even know what day it is but playing in Winnipeg, you get used to the travel… Once you finally get over here and practice with this team, it’s surreal…. It’s been a great experience already. Everybody is pretty tired but it felt good to get that first practice done.”
In 2011-12, Wheeler’s Jets traveled more than any other team in NHL history, as they were still members of the Southeast Division, where all four teams were in the Eastern time zone. The Jets traveled over 44,000 miles that season, while Sochi is 5,471 miles away from Winnipeg.
The Athlete’s Village in Sochi boasts incredibly small beds and spartan living areas, something that 6-foot-5 Wheeler needed some adjusting to fit:
“I’m just curling up in a ball, keeping warm.”
Wheeler had a yellow jersey on when Team USA hit the ice, meaning he is an extra forward for the team, along with Derek Stephan of the New York Rangers. USA Hockey GM David Poile will not be making the trip to Sochi after an eye injury, so Ray Shero is now the acting General Manager.
The Americans kick off their preliminary schedule when they take on Slovakia on Thursday at 6:30 AM CT.
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