When the Conference Finals conclude and the Stanley Cup Finals matchup is announced every season, every hockey nut in the world goes through his own matchup analysis. Who has the edge in offense; defense; goaltenders? Which coach is better? Who has more experience? Will home-ice advantage be a factor?
They might go back and compare it to previous Cup Finals from years past. How did these two teams fare against each other when they met here 20 years ago?
But it's rare to ever consider that travel will be a factor. They all have private jets, anyhow, so how problematic can the trips between cities be after all? Well, in truth, some Finals have thousands of miles separating the two opponents and can be up to three or four time zones different. That can have a big effect on practice time and even the player's stamina and focus going into each game.
As we wait on the verge of the 84th Stanley Cup played for the NHL crown, the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks have a bunch of long plane flights ahead of them as they prepare for their series that begins Wednesday.
So, we wondered, how does this matchup compare to all of the other Stanley Cup Finals matchups in history in terms of travel distance between the two teams? After scouring through history, we found that the Stanley Cup has had some major plane flights quite often over the years. But have any of the previous Finals seen two opponents as far apart as these two? Let's take a look.
Note: Distances are in miles and were calculated courtesy of GeoBytes.com's City Distance Tool.
Distance: 1,878 miles
This, the 12th longest distance in Cup history, saw the two teams take the Cup once each as Montreal won four games to one in '86 but then saw the Flames avenge their loss by eliminating the Habs 4-2 in their second meeting.
Distance: 2,011 miles
Another series of what should be known as the "repeat 80's"— when nearly every Cup Finals matchup that came up eventually appeared twice in the decade—Edmonton and Philadelphia saw each other twice in a three-season span and racked up the airline miles both times.
The Oilers took both meetings, cruising 4-1 in the best of seven series the first time in 1985 and then sneaking out with a 4-3 victory in '87.
Distance: 2,042 miles
These two back-to-back identical long-distance series saw the end of one dynasty turn into the beginning of another, even with the tiring flights back and forth from Long Island to Alberta.
The Islanders won their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup in '83 by sweeping upset-seeking Edmonton in just four games to become the NHL's second consecutive four-times-in-a-row Cup winner (the Canadiens won it in from '76 to '79 directly before the Isles' streak).
However, they saw their run broken a year later when the angry Oilers came back to beat New York 4-1 in '84. This started Edmonton's own streak of five Cup championships in a seven-year span led by all-time great Wayne Gretzky.
Distance: 2,075 miles
Just as the 10th longest series in history (last slide) was the end of the Isles' dynasty, these two spread apart teams met twice in three seasons and saw the end of the Oilers' own dynasty.
Edmonton won their fourth Stanley Cup of the decade in '88 by sweeping the Terry O'Reilly-coached Bruins, 4-0, and then followed it up exactly two years later by pounding Boston, this time led by Mike Milbury, by a 4-1 game count.
To this day, the Oilers have yet to win another Cup. Perhaps the long plane rides did them some good, then?
Distance: 2,075 miles
The Oilers' many appearances on this list of long-distance Cup Finals matchups concludes with this one, their only one of the modern NHL era. As the eighth seed, Edmonton went all the way to the Finals (and traveled a long way to get there, too, both literally and figuratively) before being barely edged by the upstart Carolina Hurricanes.
The 'Canes won the series in Game 7 for their first (and only) Cup victory after the two teams flew a combined 16,600 miles as they switched back-and-forth between the two cities.
Distance: 2,295 miles
The Lightning fell just short last night of advancing to their second Cup Finals in franchise history, but their first one was also a joyful one, despite the long trips. The Calgary Flames were defeated by Tampa Bay in seven games in the final league championship before the '05-'06 lockout.
These two cities are also the biggest longitude difference in Stanley Cup history with a 24 degree difference (St. Petersburg, home of the Bolts, is at 27 degrees north, while Calgary sits at 51 degrees north).
Distance: 2,355 miles
One of the more unconventional Cup matchups over the years was also one of the longest, as the Ducks-Senators battle from four years ago is the sixth longest distance in history and also one of the biggest climate differences in history.
Anaheim made quick work of the Senators with a 4-1 series victory in the end, and neither team has come close to returning to that stage since.
Distance: 2,426 miles
Goaltending great Martin Brodeur's third (and likely last) career Cup win came with a lot of time spent rocketing across the country as his New Jersey Devils upended the then-Mighty Ducks in Game 7 to take the series by a four-games-to-three score.
The coast-to-coast travel that the teams endured is also the fifth-longest single distance and the second-longest total distance (since the series went its maximum length) in Cup history.
Distance: 2,429 miles
The Canucks' most recent Finals appearance until this season ended in a loss and a lot of additional miles on their charter jet for Vancouver, as they were defeated in Game Seven by Hall of Famer Mark Messier of the New York Rangers to send them home disappointed.
This battle between the Blueshirts and Canucks is, to this date, the longest total distance traveled between the two teams combined with a total of 19,432 miles flown.
Distance: 2,448 miles
Vancouver's other Stanley Cup Finals qualification before their current run and 1994 came in 1982 against another New York team, this time the Islanders (it would be the Rangers nine years later, as we mentioned on the last slide). For this occasion, the distance was just a tad bit longer ... but the Canucks' fate, despite the same outcome, was a whole lot worse.
The Islanders cruised by Vancouver without giving up a single game, winning 4-0 to earn their third out of four Cups in the aforementioned 80's streak. Mike Bossy scored the series-sealing goal in Game Four, just as he would only 12 months later.
Distance: 2,469 miles
The 1993 series between the Canadiens and the Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings was one with a lot of anticipation and very little competition. Gretzky, who had experienced some injury problems earlier in the season, was unable to contribute very much and his team suffered, eventually losing decisively by a 4-1 margin to the Habs.
It may have been the long flights that were getting to the aging star for L.A., as this series had the longest distance between the hometowns of the two competing teams in history, at least before this spring.
Indeed, that's right; we guessed it, and probably, so did you. The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals matchup between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks is the longest distance between two cities in Cup Finals history. In fact, it blows away the competition with a whopping length of...
Distance: 2,504 miles
That's 35 miles longer than the '93 Montreal-Los Angeles Finals, the previous longest. In fact, if this series goes to seven games this June, it will be also become the first NHL championship ever to amass over 20,000 miles of flights for the two teams combined.
Amazingly, a Tampa Bay victory last night would've resulted in an even longer (by a significant amount, too) distance between the Eastern and Western Conference's respective Cup candidates; 2,599 miles. That's a full 95 miles longer than the Vancouver-Boston matchup and would've been the longest in history by 130 miles!
If those rankings of the longest Cup Finals that ever actually happened isn't enough for you, here are some more interesting numbers.
The shortest distance in Stanley Cup Finals matchup history is the 1980 Cup Finals between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers, two teams that are just 100 miles apart. For trivial purposes, that was actually the Isles victory that started their four-consecutive Cup victories run.
Of course, that was before the installment of the Eastern and Western Conferences, which would've obviously prohibited that matchup; those two teams are now in the same division. The shortest distance in the Cup Finals since the East and West were put in is Detroit vs. Pittsburgh (2008 and 2009), which are 209 miles apart.
The longest distance possible at the moment for the Cup Finals would be a battle between the Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks, two teams that are 2,781 miles apart. That seems rather unlikely, though, since the Panthers haven't made the playoffs since 2001.