With the Western Conference finals contestants locked up, and the Eastern Conference Finals nearing a conclusion (you know the New Jersey Devils will be in the Finals against the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals is yet to be determined), the number on my mind is 367.
367 miles separates Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona and Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, California. 367 miles, that is a five-hour trip if you were driving directly from one arena to the other.
That's not exactly a short distance... But in the grand scheme of the Western Conference, it's downright miniscule.
The 15 teams in the West routinely are jumping time zones and the Mississippi to get to conference games. In comparison, the Eastern Conference hugs the Atlantic coast of North America and doesn't stray more than 500 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, sure, it spans nearly 1400 miles as-the-crow-flies in distance running north-and-south , but the distance isn't comparable to the sojourns that teams in the Western are subjected to during the season as well as in the playoffs.
367 miles. That's a gift to the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes just completed a series against the Nashville Predators (Phoenix to Nashville: 1683 miles) while the Kings just swept the St. Louis Blues (distance between Los Angeles and St. Louis: 1830 miles). This series will remain in their respective backyards. By comparison, the distance is shorter than a trip between the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa and Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia (460 miles).
This doesn't compare to what the New Jersey Devils will be "suffering" in the Eastern Conference final. They'll likely have all of a bus-ride between Prudential Center in Newark and Madison Square Garden in New York City (distance: 13.7 miles) or potentially Verizon Center in Washington D.C. (distance: 215 miles). They only had to suffer a bus trip down the New Jersey Turnpike to reach their Conference Semifinal opponent in the Philadelphia Flyers (distance: 89 miles).
Fans don't want to think about a logistical issue like travel distance when they watch a hockey game. They'd rather think about the direct matchups in on-ice talent. But travel takes its toll, a hard fact to dismiss...
Yet, until the Stanley Cup Final begins in a scant two weeks, and the commutes become coast-to-coast affairs, travel times and distance is not going to be a factor.
(Editor's note: Most distances were determined through Google Earth and its driving-directions tool).