Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson is looking forward to this week's west coast road trip for two reasons.
One, he gets to see his granddaughter in Los Angeles.
And two, he believes his club will get the chance to bond, which is something that he believes has lacked somewhat with this year's team.
And the main reason for that, he said, is because after practices, particularly at Lakeshore Lions Arena, the players are anxious to leave, and not hang out together. Not that he blames them. At Lakeshore, he said, there's little reason to hang around.
"The players are gone a little bit quicker (than other teams)," Wilson said yesterday, following the morning skate at the Air Canada Centre. "Part of it's traffic and all these other issues. You have to have stuff there to want to hang around. The practice facility we'll have next year will address some issues, with the better lounge, and the area where you can make your lunch, as opposed to what we have right now. That makes it a little more difficult. I wouldn't want to hang around and spend a lot of time at Lakeshore. Nothing against Lakeshore, but it's not set up like some of the modern practice facilities."
Wilson believes it's important for players to hang out and get to know each other, particularly after practices. The theory being, a team that hangs out together, bonds, and plays better.
"We haven't created quite yet the atmosphere where the guys spend a lot of time at the practice facility. We're in the process of getting a couple of ping pong tables and try to create an atmosphere where you hang around a little bit longer after practice -- where they eat together after practice, play ping pong or fool around. But that's a work in progress. You have a tendency to do that on the road, but we don't have many extended road trips."
The $34-million practice facility, located just north of the Lakeshore Arena, is scheduled to open next September, in time for training camp.
As the coach of the Western Conference San Jose Sharks for the previous three seasons, Wilson said his club had longer road trips and there were more of a chance to bond on the road, because the players were around each other all the time. East coast teams don't travel as much, though the Leafs embark on a three-game trip today, starting with a game tomorrow night in Los Angeles, followed by a game on Tuesday in San Jose before the trip wraps up on Phoenix on Thursday.
"I'm used to six and seven-game road trips, where you're gone for 10 days to two weeks. This is an extended road trip, where we're gone for 4-5 days and play three games. It's not very much time we spend together," he said.