The schedule shows a home game for the Albany Devils, but the American Hockey League team faced a four-hour bus ride just to get to their arena today in Atlantic City.
The Devils begin the first of four games in Boardwalk Hall at 4 p.m. when they take on the Hershey Bears.
The Devils are the AHL affiliate of the NHL's New Jersey Devils. The AHL consists of 30 teams in Canada and the United States that serve as the primary minor-league affiliates of their NHL organizations.
This is the third season in the last four in which the Devils have played a portion of their home games in Atlantic City. They played five during the 2010-11 season and four during the 2012-13 season. In January 2012, the AHL held its All-Star Game at Boardwalk Hall.
"I think it's a good opportunity to get away from other AHL cities and go to a different city and experience that city and go and play in front of a different crowd," Devils left winger Chris McKelvie said in a phone interview Thursday.
Boardwalk Hall has hosted many historic sporting events, conventions and concerts that range from Wrestlemania to major boxing matches and even legendary rock groups such as the Rolling Stones and Beatles.
The Hall also is known for its unique structure and location on the beach.
"I think it's a beautiful place," McKelvie said. "Personally, I've always had an interest in old architecture, old arenas and buildings and stadiums like that. You just look up at the high ceilings and it's pretty cool being there.
"We get treated pretty well when we get there. They have a nice locker room setup for us, and we feel like we belong there and it feels good."
McKelvie is among a handful of players who were on the Devils last season and got to experience playing in Atlantic City. But none of those players share the same experience as their coach.
Rick Kowalsky, in his fourth season as Albany's head coach, played in Boardwalk Hall in the early 2000s as a player. Kowalsky played for the Trenton Titans and Roanoke Express in the ECHL and played against the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies. The Bullies played in the Hall from 2001 to 2005, and then moved to Stockton, Calif., where they are now the Thunder.
"I've always liked the building and being able to walk from your hotel down the Boardwalk even though it's cold and nasty weather," Kowalsky said by telephone Thursday.
"It's a nice change of pace, and depending on when we get in - we're able to get in a night early and get out and have dinner. I've always enjoyed going down there as a player and now as a coach, but hopefully we can get the wins down there."
Kowalsky also played against Mike Haviland, who coached the Bullies from 2002-04. Now, Haviland is the head coach of the Bears.
Haviland is back in Atlantic City for the first time since 2005, when he coached with Trenton. He was excited when he saw two games against Albany would be in Atlantic City.
"I have nothing but great memories of Atlantic City," Haviland, who won a Kelly Cup coaching the Bullies in 2003, said by telephone Wednesday. "I thought it was such an amazing building. The facilities were first class, and the people I met down there I've become friends with for a life time."
"I think it was unfortunate (the Bullies moved). I think hockey is big in that area, and I think it can work again. It was just a shame they ended up leaving."
There might be some hope for more hockey in the future as Global Spectrum took over management of the hall from SMG in November. Global Spectrum also runs the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
"We're excited to see the Albany Devils bring four games to Atlantic City this winter," Fran Rodowicz, Global Spectrum's general manager, said in an email Wednesday. "We know the market has a hockey following and are hoping to build upon it. With our affiliation with the Philadelphia Flyers, perhaps in the future we can expand on it."
Asked if the future would include some home games of the Flyers' AHL affiliate, the Phantoms, who will move to Lehigh Valley this fall, Rodowicz would not comment.
Either way, Haviland was excited to be heading back to the Garden State today.
"I was excited, and you have to remember that I grew up in New Jersey (Middletown in Monmouth County), so for me it's somewhat of a (homecoming)," he said.
Contact John Russo:
in Atlantic City
• 4 p.m. today vs. Hershey Bears
• 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14 vs. Hershey Bears
• 5 p.m. Sunday, March 1 vs. Wilkes-Barre Penguins
• 4 p.m. Sunday, March 23 vs. Wilkes-Barre Penguins
Ticket information and a look at players to watch on B7