A Vet's View of the Road

Jack Kerouac once said “the road is life.” Of course, Jack Keroac never had Andre Deveaux or Francis Lessard pounding him against the boards after an all-night bus trip through Canada.

Veteran Monsters winger David van der Gulik has seen his share of life on the road – both in the NHL and the AHL. And he and his teammates will be back on the open road this weekend – attempting to get their first win of the season when they head to Syracuse for a pair before wrapping up three games in three nights against Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

After spending the 2009-10 season with his hometown Abbotsford Heat, the former Boston University star is in his second year with the Monsters. van der Gulik was one of Lake Erie’s top scorers last year and is second on the squad this season.

A road warrior since his junior league hockey days, van der Gulik was the ideal candidate to discuss life away from home when the club leaves the cozy confines of Quicken Loans Arena. LakeErieMonsters.com caught up with the native of British Columbia as the Monsters wrapped up practice and prepared for its trip to Syracuse …

What will this weekend’s travel – up to Syracuse and over to Toronto – entail?
David van der Gulik: We always bus the day before so we can go out for dinner, get a good meal and get some rest. And then we have pre-game skate in the mornings. We’ll play two games (in Syracuse) and then we’ll bus after the game on Saturday night to Toronto, get in real late and play the next day.

So it’s a quick turnaround.

You’ve been up with the NHL’s Avalanche. The AHL travel must be much tougher.
van der Gulik: It’s definitely a difficult league to play in with the way travel and the games are set up. A lot of times we’ll play three (games) in three (nights). It’s one of the hardest leagues in the world because of that.

It gives you incentive to want to make the NHL because travel in the NHL is so much easier. It’s night and day difference. The biggest difference for me was the travel.

What is the bus trip like? How many stops do you make?
van der Gulik: I mean, we’ll stop if we have a real long (trip). Or if we have to cross the border when we go to Toronto or Hamilton. But for the most it’s just “get there.”

We’ll leave after (Thursday’s) practice for Syracuse and I don’t know how long it is, but however long it is, we’ll probably go there in one straight trip. I don’t like prolonging the trips, and a bunch of stops makes it take forever.

But the actual trip itself is something you get used to as a hockey player. When you’re young, you’re in junior levels and they have long bus trips, too. So you kind of get that at an early age and you get used to it.

It’s mental and it makes the season a grind. It’s one of those things that can make or break a season. If you travel well, sleep on the bus and know your body and what you need, that helps. But it’s a big factor.

This weekend, we’re going to Toronto and I don’t know what their travel is like, but if you’ve just been bussing all over, they’re waiting on you and refreshed. So it makes a big difference.

Is there a player who sings or snores who you don’t want to sit next to?
van der Gulik: On our team, we have a good group of guys. The vets have two seats, so it’s not too cramped.

Obviously you don’t want to be sitting with a big guy like (6-6, 231-pound Hugh) Jessiman who takes up three seats. He’s a big boy.

For the most part, it’s a good group of guys.

Is there an unofficial seating order?
van der Gulik: I don’t always sit in the same seat, but I always sit around the same spot on the bus.

It’s a status thing – the older you get, the farther back on the bus you sit. The rookies sit up front and sometimes they have to double-up if there aren’t enough seats.

There’s a little bit of respect that way – you have to earn your seat.

Is the road tougher for a married guy like you?
van der Gulik: You kind of get used to it. And it’s almost kind of a blessing. When (the team is) home, we’re around a lot. I’m home already at 1 p.m. today, so I see my wife a lot when I’m around. When you have a 9-to-5, you don’t see them as much.

It’s not like we take each other for granted, but when I do go on the road for a couple days or a week – when you come back you obviously appreciate them a lot more.

It can be tough. When I played for Abbotsford we were on the road for 90 days one year – that’s half the season. So we were in a hotel a lot. That was difficult. You’re on the road for two straight weeks, and that’s too long.

But here on the East Coast, we don’t really deal with super long road trips. I think the longest one is around seven days.

Do you have a road dog that you hang out with?
van der Gulik: I kinda like to mix it up. My roommate right now is Joel Chouinard, and we get along real well.

It’s nice when you have a group of guys and you can go to dinner. Sometimes you go in big groups. Sometimes you just go with a couple guys.

Obviously, me and Mauldy – we’re a little bit older – so we hang out a little bit. It’s still early in the year and we have a lot of new guys, so you have to get to know them. And that’s what’s nice about the road – you get to know them better.

What are your favorite destinations on the road?
van der Gulik: In our league, it’s always nice going down to Texas – Houston, San Antonio. It’s warm and you can get some sun. Obviously, San Antonio has a nice downtown area – the River Walk. So those are probably my favorite.

And it’s always great to go back to Canada. I’m from Abbotsford, so on the trip to Abbotsford this year, I can go to my house and see the family. I love getting back to Canada – Toronto, Hamilton. It’s nice going back to smell the fresh air.


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