|Chris Vande Velde was flown to Edmonton on Daryl Katz's private jet for his first NHL game, a trip he shared with OKC Barons teammates Alex Giroux and Ryan O'Marra.
This is one long flight where jet lag isn’t an issue.
In fact, if it was up to Alex Giroux, Ryan O’Marra and Chris Vande Velde, they’d have taken the long way from Grand Rapids to Edmonton.
You only get so many opportunities to drive right onto the airport tarmac, hop onto Daryl Katz’s private jet and cruise in style to your next game.
“We felt like rock stars,” said Vande Velde.
“Kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” added O’Marra.
With the Oilers gutted by injury and the Oklahoma City Barons in the middle of a playoff race, the organization needed good players in two places at once.
Hence the luxurious airlift. There was no time for a commercial milk run Thursday morning, so as soon the trio wrapped up their AHL game in Michigan Wedensday night, it was rock-star city.
“The boys (on the Barons) were laughing, saying we’d be taking the private jet there,” said O’Marra, who didn’t believe it. “I didn’t know what they were talking about. I thought we’d (fly commercial) and stop over in two cities and then get to Edmonton.”
“We rolled right up, put our stuff on and away we went,” said O’Marra. “It was very cool. We were pretty excited about it. We watched Modern Family the whole way here and ate the post-game meal that we ordered from Grand Rapids and landed about 1 in the morning.
“It was a first-class thing to do. We were all blown away. When I see Mr. Katz himself I’ll shake his hand and thank him personally because that was first class.”
It beats the first two legs of their AHL trip.
“We flew into Chicago, took bus to Peoria, then a seven-hour bus ride after that game,” said Vande Velde. “Then we bused to Grand Rapids. It was nice to get on the jet.
“It was really nice of Edmonton to do that, come down there and get us. They knew we had a rough day of travel the night before, it kind of made up for it in a big way.”
The best part about the rock-star travel day is that it ended in the NHL, with the trio suiting up for the Oilers against Phoenix.
“I didn’t know when this time was going to come,” said Vande Velde, who’ll be playing his first NHL game tonight. “I’m just glad for the opportunity.”