Pity poor HC Amur, the most isolated professional sports team on the planet.
Located in the Far East mining city of Khabarovsk near the Chinese border, HC Amur plays in the Kontinental Hockey League, which until a few days ago was the world’s best. But HC Amur is unique – they have no rivals. Heck, there isn’t even another team in their own time zone – or within two or three, for that matter. Khabarovsk is in the GMT +10 time zone, same as Sydney, Australia; closest “rival” Metallurg Novokuznetsk is GMT +7.
And you want to talk about road trips? Amur has to visit every team in the league once, and the KHL spans two continents, going deep into central Europe. When they drop the puck for an evening game at Lev Praha in the Czech Republic, it isn’t even the same day back home.
Put it this way: Amur’s closest competitor, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, is 2070 miles away. That’s like saying the New York Rangers’ closest rival was the Phoenix Coyotes. Their farthest trip – which they had to fly direct this year – was to Bratislava, at 4,800 miles. There are three NHL teams closer than that – Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.
The worst? In a five-day span earlier this season, Amur flew to Bratislava, then went to Prague, then played CSKA Moscow. Lost all of them. Total round-trip mileage: 9,840, just a hair over their Moscow-Riga-Donetsk trip.
At home, Amur are gods. In a city of a half-million, they sell out virtually every game in their 7,100-seat arena, presumably since there’s nothing to do there. It’s hard to attract good talent, though; their most famous foreign alumni include Peter Nylander, David Ling, and Nolan Pratt. Accordingly, Amur is a beaten-down bunch of sucks – they’re next-to-last in the East Division.