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Mario Serban is the cofounder of LA Training Room. He is a former Trainer and Massage Therapist for The Los Angeles Kings Hockey Club and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
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LA Training Room's Blog - Traveling like a King

Traveling like a King

March 25, 2013

Did you ever wonder how professional players travel during the season?

In this article I will illustrate everything that involves traveling as a professional player and my own experience while I worked for the LA Kings.

If you make it as professional player for any teams in NHL, NBA, MLB or NFL and you travel with the team you will never travel commercial for the entire length of the season. Now there are two ways to go about this. The team could either have their own plane or hire a charter plane. But no team at this level would ever fly commercial.

And here are the reasons:
1. No more waiting in lines to check in.
2. The team is in control over the departure time.
3. Total privacy.

Can you imagine if a team like Lakers would fly commercial. Some other passengers on that flight could either worship Kobe Bryant or make annoying comments. Either way it would be a total distraction.

The plane

You ever wondered how the planes look like for professional teams. Wood trims, large screen tv, big leather chairs, large tables in the middle so players can play poker.
The food is way better quality then what you would get in a regular commercial flight. They have sushi, steak, chicken and fish and fresh fruits. About 80 percent of the players would eat the steak.
When you first get on the plane two large tables full of appetizers will wait for you and that includes shrimps, chicken skewers, tuna roles, cheese and fruits.
Some teams allow alcohol beverages and some don’t. The Kings did not. However when we traveled in my first year with the Kings, we shared the same plane with the Dodgers, so when I got there in one occasion the flight attendant had a large bag full of empty beer and soda cans left from the Dodgers.
The training staff has to be on the plane before anybody else and I kind of liked that because we were the first ones to get our hands on the appetizers and all the goods.
The best thing about flying private is that you don’t have to worry about checking in or security. For example if the plane is schedule to take off at 12:30, you can get there at 12:15, park in the designated parking lot and the plane would be about a hundred yards from there. So basically you jump from your car into the plane and all you have to do is to show your id and go through the minimum security system.

Hotels

I learned from some players that there is a rule set by the NHL, and I’m sure that the other major leagues do the same, that the teams has to put the players in one of the best possible hotels in that city and they should try their best in that regard. The Ritz Carlton plays a major role in all this. I’ve seen and stayed in a lot of Ritz hotels all this time that I worked for the LA Kings. But again this is the Director of operation’s discretion when it comes to choosing a hotel. Sometimes the coach has something to say in all this if they really care about it.

Nevertheless there are cities like Columbus or Buffalo where there are no luxury hotels. In my first two years for instance we stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Columbus, Ohio. The hotel was atrocious! Dirty and it need it a major upgrade. Then a new shopping mall opened, Easton Town Center, and there was a brand new Hilton. It wasn’t a luxury hotel but it was clean and new.
The same thing happened in Dallas. We stayed at Renascence Hotel until some of the key players start complaining so they put us in Rosewood Crescent Hotel. We went from a dump to the ultimate luxury!

The training and equipment staff have their own rooms but most of the players do not. You would think it would be the other way around. I suppose the teams have respect for the trainers because they’re working hard so they give them their space. Goalies no matter what will always have their own room.

Although my last year with the Kings I had to share the hotel room with the new video coordinator guy for more than half of season. Finally after me complaining and him complaining, we got our own separate rooms. It made no sense to share the room since we had totally different schedules. I was coming later than him, I had to leave before him and sometimes he had to work late nights to do video editing for the coaches.

Now most of the players in hockey do share the same hotel room with the exception of veterans and some key players and of course the goalies.
Some players like Lubomir Visnovsky or Pavol Demitra , just to name a few, reached a deal with the team where they paid a little extra and got their own separate rooms. That was a smart thing to do because when you are on a long road trip, believe me a little privacy helps a lot.

Of course all traveling expenses are covered by the team with a few minor exceptions. If you use the hotel minibar then you have to pay. Same with the internet.
In conclusion if you make it as a professional player you will experience the 5 stars traveling, most of the time. Nice planes, great hotels and great food! But after a while all this travel takes its toll!
It’s great in the beginning but it becomes unexciting and it loses its charm and luster.
Most of the players miss their family, if that’s the case and some times that could ignite some friction in a family. Often by the end of the trip you feel exhausted. And because of that players could lose focus.
I think NFL players travel the least and no matter how long they train during the day at the end they still go home to their families. And that’s a beautiful thing!



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