Flames, Sharks Could Be Happier

The San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames open the NHL regular season in Japan, and many of the players are unhappy about it.

"Ridiculous," said Sharks center Bernie Nicholls. "Absolutely ridiculous.

"A fast start is so important to having a good year, and we're traveling what, 10-11 hours, flying across the world, to play two games in a city that we'll never, ever see again? You tell me this makes any sense."

Nicholls is not the only player disturbed about the NHL's plan to help sell hockey overseas by scheduling games Friday and Saturday in Tokyo.

"The standard rule is that for every hour time change it takes one day for your body to recover," said Calgary's Theoren Fleury. "Well, the difference between here and Tokyo is 15 hours, or around two weeks of recovery time.

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    Forum: Are the players' concerns justified?

  • "Those are the two weeks we can't afford to lose."

    Nicholls, who worries the trip will hurt the Sharks' chances of getting into the playoffs, was even more bitter.

    "Just another example of western teams getting shafted. They say that one day we'll see two New York teams going over there to play ... yeah, sure, not in my lifetime. Us and Calgary and L.A. and Anaheim and Edmonton and Vancouver, we get the tough travel all season and then they throw this at us on top of that.

    "It's a joke."

    If it wasn't rigorous enough for the teams to spend a week in Tokyo to start the season, both fly home for a single game and then take to the road again -- the Sharks for three games, Flames four.

    Flames defenseman Tommy Albelin, who played for Sweden at the Olympics, also understands the demands of the time change on the body's physical and emotional clocks.

    "Oh, it'll take 10 or 11 days to readjust," he warned. "By the time we get used to the time change, here to Japan, we'll be flying home. You'll find yourself waking up at 3 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep. It really does mess you up for a while."

    From all reports, the Japanese arn't exactly giddy with excitement, either, with a top ticket price of $170 and a nose-diving economy.

    A year ago, when the Japanese games featured the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Canucks, hockey fans in the Far East got a glimpse of stars Mark Messier, Pavel Bure and Teemu Selanne.

    This season ... well, there's Fleury.

    "That's what I don't understand," Albelin added. "If they want to send teams, why not well-known ones, like the Rangers or Red Wings or Maple Leafs? Gretzky or the Stanley Cup champions? I mean, everyone in Japan has heard of New York."

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