It is the nature of the ECHL, with a 72-game regular season and expenses tight, that teams each season run into portions of the schedule that are about half hockey and half hell.
Usually, this involves a ridiculous number of games in a very tight window of time.
And so it is that the Alaska Aces will soon embark on a particularly brutal stretch in their 2013-14 journey.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but beginning with the Aces' series-opening game against visiting Stockton on Friday night at Sullivan Arena, those clubs will play five consecutive games here in a span of just seven days.
That's a slog. And then it gets worse for the Aces.
After next Thursday's fifth game in that Stockton series, the Aces are scheduled to fly out of Anchorage the next morning, headed to California for -- ugh -- three games in three days. That little stretch features consecutive games at Ontario (Saturday night and Sunday afternoon), then a game at Bakersfield (on Monday afternoon). So, at that point the Aces will have played eight games in 11 days, a span that includes a day of travel.
Man, talk about a grind. And then it gets worse for the Aces.
After those three games in California, they return home to entertain Ontario on Feb. 19, 21 and 22. So, that makes 11 games in 16 days, with two days of travel in there. That makes for just three "off days'' that don't include travel.
In all, the Aces twice face what is known on the circuit as a "3 in 3'' -- three games in three days/nights. And they also have a "3 in 4'' in there.
The schedule got squeezed when the San Francisco Bulls folded shop on Jan. 27. Even before the Bulls' demise, though, the Aces were facing a tough stretch. Their original schedule had them playing nine games in that 16-day stretch, no easy feat.
But now it's 11 games in 16 days, with a pair of travel days. And it ain't like ECHL clubs have the luxury of charter flights -- that's strictly NHL stuff you see on 24/7.
Well, boys, do enjoy.