Joey Daccord’s main priority was getting his goalie equipment to Detroit.
It was the second time the Kraken goalie was recalled from Charlotte, and he had the night to get to Detroit in time for their Dec. 1 game against the Red Wings. Chris Driedger had just hit injured reserve, and the Kraken needed a backup goalie.
So Daccord and forward Kole Lind were told to get to the airport and board a commercial flight to Detroit in time for the finale of that road trip, where they checked their hockey equipment bags and hoped for the best.
“The lady at the counter looked at me like I had 10 heads,” said Daccord. “So I’m like, I’m sorry, I don’t know what you want me to do, I need these bags to get there please, I don’t care about my luggage, just the hockey gear.”
That’s just one extra consideration players deal with when they’re called up from the AHL, or sent back down. Unlike the charter flights that bring the NHL squad from game to game, recalls happen so quickly, they have to take a commercial flight to wherever the Kraken are and then play in a game.
It’s an even tougher process with the Kraken’s AHL club, the Charlotte Checkers, so far away.
“I’ll be looking up flights from Charlotte to Seattle and some days, there’s a direct flight and it’s nice and easy,” said Kraken team services manager Brennan Baxandall. “Some days, there aren’t. But when they’re on the road that makes it more complicated, you have to look where to meet us or the best route for them and maximize their performance in terms of how do they get the most rest.”
Baxandall said they try to avoid setting players up on red-eye flights unless it’s entirely unavoidable. In the most recent recall of Daccord and Lind to the newly reintroduced taxi squad, their travel service canceled their flights to Seattle and had to rebook them.
That came during a time where Seattle had more flights canceled than any airport in the world; that’s just the way it goes sometimes, especially in a world with more roster moves than ever because of COVID protocols.
“Everyone’s just kind of used to it by now,” said Baxandall. “You just manage that the best you can.”
Since the start of the season the Kraken have called up five players. Right before the road trip in Anaheim and San Jose, Max McCormick got his second recall of the season.
The 29-year-old has dealt with the up-and-down nature of playing between the NHL and AHL for a while, but the distance from Charlotte to Seattle — almost 2,800 miles by car — has made it a little different.
“It just takes a couple days to kind of get settled in and just kind of get your body feeling normal again after the travel and the time difference,” he said. “But you know, a couple of skates and you’re right back into it. When you come across for a game, you have some adrenaline for that first game, so that always helps and then you kind of get settled in after that.”
McCormick said when he was called up this past time Charlotte coach Geordie Kinnear told him he had to get on a flight by 6 p.m. and to pack for a week. It’s been a little more than that now, but for guys being called up and moved around often, they always have to be prepared.
“I keep a checklist on my phone of things I need when I get called up and then it’s just grabbing what I can fit,” said Daccord. “You kind of always have to be ready. It can be tricky because you’re focusing on playing in Charlotte, but then at any point, it’s a snap of the fingers and you’re in a different part of the country.”
Lind has a bit of experience with the time zone jump, having played with the Utica Comets in the AHL, the affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. He’s on call as one of the first Kraken call-ups when they need a forward though, so he’s been on alert a little bit more this time around.
Last time he was recalled on that Detroit trip, he had been getting ready to leave for a Checkers road trip and had to change course — luckily that was staying in the same time zone.
“It’s a big change, but it’s something we signed up for as pro hockey players,” he said. “It’s a lot easier staying in the eastern time zone, but it’s not a big deal, coming (to Seattle), you’re just a little more tired. … It is difficult adjusting to that lifestyle, you just have to be prepared.”
McCormick said for him the biggest thing to worry about is getting the right equipment situated, but the team was helpful with their equipment managers to ensure he had as much of it as possible.
“You walk in with a backpack and a duffel bag and then you have a hockey bag and like eight sticks over your shoulder,” he said. “You get a lot of looks, and I think they changed it at some point and have gotten stricter with hockey and lacrosse sticks, so I had eight and the gate agent told me I could only have two, and I had to explain, ‘I need these for my job.'”
He ended up paying more to check his sticks.
For the most part, the team doesn’t want the players to have to worry about it; they want them to be rested and focused on entering the lineup as energized and ready as possible.
It will make a big difference when the Kraken have their own AHL club in Coachella Valley, California, for next season. Even then, though, the airport trips for players on recall are their own little adventures.
“Last time I landed in Seattle, a couple people asked me if I played for the Kraken,” McCormick said. “So I had to tell them kind of what my situation was and another person told me that they were coming to the game the next day.”