Every four years, being a player in the NHL is a lot like being an elementary school or high school student.
Not unlike a holiday break in December and January for students, the National Hockey League shuts down for approximately two weeks during the Winter Olympics, currently being held in Sochi, Russia.
For those not involved in the Olympics, it means time off — and that includes coaches, like Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes.
“The players are probably all on a beach somewhere, but coaches stay home and do a little work,” Tippett told Doug and Wolf during Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday morning.
The Coyotes are currently on a stretch of 18 days without a game — they don’t resume their schedule until Feb. 27 in Winnipeg against the Jets. The layoff creates a challenge for coaches and players, according to Tippett.
“We’re going to plan almost like a little training camp coming back,” Tippett said. “We’ve got six or seven days to get the guys back into shape. I think it’s going to be really good for the game because you’re going to have teams that are healthy and are going to get some great practice.
“It’s going to make for some great hockey in the stretch drive, so we’ve got to get ourselves ready for the final 24 games, because it’s going to be a wild race.”
At the Olympic break, the Coyotes are tied with the Dallas Stars for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot with 64 points. Tippett realizes he’ll have to rely on his entire roster in the final quarter of the season to have a chance to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Depth is going to a big part of it, because I think we have 15 games in March and two trips to the East coast, so with travel and a heavy schedule, you’re going to go through some players,” he said. “Depth is going to be key. I like our depth, knock on wood, you always try to stay away from injuries, but that’s going to be a key down the stretch.”
The Coyotes do have seven games at Jobing.com Arena in March, starting with a three-game homestand against St. Louis, Vancouver and Montreal.
But as the head coach mentioned, there are two Eastern road trips: at Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida and Boston starting March 8, and another trek to play the Rangers, Pittsburgh and New Jersey at the end of the month.