STOCKHOLM — Jon Cooper knew he had to stay awake for at least six more hours. His plan was to take to the streets, explore Stockholm and let the brisk 35-degree air wake him up.
Practice ended around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and that was only 10:30 a.m. back in Tampa. But after flying in on a red-eye charter, everyone wanted sleep.
A seven-hour, overnight flight will throw anyone off, particularly when coupled with a six-hour time jump.
Cooper walked around Stockholm and found “a lot of statues of horses, a lot of people on scooters and every place has Swedish meatballs. That’s what I know so far.”
(Side note: he said the meatballs were very good and the gravy was outstanding.)
The first step to adjusting to the time zone and shaking off the jet lag was practicing immediately. The Lightning landed around 10 a.m. and then the practiced at 3 p.m.
No one really wanted to practice, and yet they did at the same time. Tyler Johnson commented that it was good to do something. He knew the value out-weighed the desire to just sleep.
Players weren’t trying to get off the ice, either. As they usually do, they stayed on the ice after practice officially ended (the shortest practice the Lightning have had in weeks).
“When you’re planning it, it doesn’t seem like you want to,” Cooper said. “But it was the best thing.”
Defenseman Victor Hedman, a native of Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, and the other Europeans make this trip more often than most of the Lightning, but not even he had a trick to beat the jet lag.
While Monday’s practice (again shorter than others recently) had better energy, everyone is still getting there. They’re no longer desperate for sleep, but they are still figuring out how to get comfortable.
“I don’t think we can underestimate (the travel),” Cooper said. “I’m just speaking based on how I feel. It takes a little time to get through that. (Sunday and Monday) probably had a different feel from what (Tuesday’s) practice will.”
Cooper talked to coaches who had brought teams abroad previously and Julien BriseBois talked to almost every general manager to pick up any pointers they had.
“The schedule is set up for us to have plenty of time to adjust,” BriseBois said. “It’s not Earth-shattering. Football teams do it, we do it. China would be a bigger adjustment, which is probably why they do that earlier in the year.”
The NHL brought teams to China for preseason games each of the last two years but did not this season. The Bucs have been to London three times and the league is hosting four games in the city this year.
The Bucs, however, arrived in London Friday morning for a Sunday game. The Lightning got to Sweden on Sunday for a Friday game. Where Bucs coach Bruce Arians discouraged walking around too much the day before the game, Cooper isn’t worried about that. He said the players know how to take care of themselves. He wouldn’t want anyone out an hour before game time, but the Lightning have a week to explore, rather than shove it all into an afternoon.
“We’re kind of encouraging them to go out and take in the culture,” Cooper said. “Stockholm is such a beautiful city and how often do you get the change to come here and experience it?”
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.