Home away from home

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

The southern Ontario city of Burlington is about to have 71 adopted residents.

Starting today, the Edmonton Eskimos are going to be based in Burlington for the next nine days as they play back-to-back games on the road in Ontario.

With the club's next tilt being in Toronto on Sunday followed by a game in Hamilton one week today, it's the team's longest road trip since 2003.

In total, 71 members of the organization - including the 46-man active roster and every healthy player on the practice roster - are making the journey to the east, making it one massive travelling road show.

Costing the club an estimated $100,000, the nine-day trip is not cheap.

It's unclear if the team could have saved money by coming home in between the games, but it didn't matter.

Wanting back-to-back wins on the road to open the regular-season at 4-1, Eskimos management believes staying in Eastern Canada for nine days is the best option for the players.

"Logistically for the guys (the players) it is less wear and tear on them. It is less hassle than having to go to (another) airport, repack," said Dan McKinnon, the Eskimos manger of football administration.

"For us, it is two trips in one.

"It gives them a chance to get acclimatized. Our summer isn't the same as the eastern summers. You want them to get used to the humidity down there, the heat as well.

"It gives them a chance to get conditioned to the time zone."

Behind the scenes, the team has been planning since February for this trip - hoping for a better result than the 1-1 split in July 2003 when it lost in Winnipeg on Canada Day before winning in Hamilton four days later.

For a trip of this length, there are three key areas - besides the games - that take plenty of planning.

From picking a hotel to planning meals for 71 people to finding a practice facility between games, everything needs to go smoothly.

THE HOTEL

Staying along the water in Burlington in the same hotel that the team used in their 2003 journey was a no-brainer.

"It is in the ideal location for us. It is easy to go to either Toronto or Hamilton. It is about 20 minutes from Hamilton, maybe 40 minutes to Toronto," McKinnon explained.

"But it also in an environment that has everything around it.

"There are a lot of places to eat. It is a comfortable environment. You don't have to worry about the traffic that you have in a busy city."

Burlington is a city of approximately 160,000 on an edge of Lake Ontario.

THE MEALS

The players are responsible for following the guidelines from the team nutritionist when using their per diems to eat every day - except when the club provides the meals the day of the games.

"The fundamental meals that we do before a game we will do that at the hotel," continued McKinnon.

The rest of the time, the players will be within walking distance of several restaurants.

THE PRACTICES

The Eskimos will take Monday off before practising for three straight days at McMaster University in Hamilton before meeting the Ticats next Friday.

There were a few choices for a practice facility, but McMaster met most of the needs.

"It is brand new. Think of Clarke Park but a little bigger," said McKinnon. "It was just completed this year. It had the CIS East/West all-star game.

"Parking is great. It has all the facilities that we need as far as locker-room."

Added Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia: "Are we going to have the same facilities that we have got at Commonwealth? No.

"But we are going to try to create a working environment that is as close as you can possibly have.

"But no excuses."

After Sunday's game in Toronto, the Eskimos gear will be trucked to McMaster, where it will stay until the team moves to Ivor Wynne Stadium next Thursday.

Considering the field turf surface at McMaster, it will be a very similar field to Ivor Wynne.

And by taking the healthy bodies on the reserve and practice roster - which doesn't happen on regular one-game road trips - the veterans will not become too tired by executing every play during a two-hour practice.

The unsung members on the road will be the training and equipment staff.

Working without the amenities of the Commonwealth Stadium locker-room, it will be a long week.

"The week itself for them (the equipment/training staff) is chaos," McKinnon quipped. "They have got to do all the laundry. Just think of all the equipment they have to bring, the laundry you have to do."

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BY THE NUMBERS

The Eskimos nine-day road trip by the numbers:

80

The estimated number of white game-day jerseys being packed.

175

Estimated number of football cleats being taken.

15

Number of equipment trunks being loaded on to the Air Canada flight. This includes jerseys, pads and training equipment, but it doesn't include individual player bags.

8

Number of extra helmets being shipped east in case some need to be replaced in games.

$100,000

The ballpark cost for the trip, which includes the unspecified amount to rent McMaster University's facility for practice sessions next week.


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