Sabres defenseman Zach Redmond grateful for the I-90 shuffle - The Buffalo News

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Sabres defenseman Zach Redmond grateful for the I-90 shuffle

When Zach Redmond found out he was being recalled to the Buffalo Sabres, it was about 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Plenty of time to pack his bag and eat dinner before driving an hour from Rochester to Buffalo.

Sounds pretty simple. But it's a situation Redmond doesn't take for granted.

Not all recalls are that easy. Not every NHL team has its affiliate just a short drive away. Redmond has lived the opposite of the ease that the I-90 gives to professional hockey players. For two seasons, he had to make the trek from St. John's, Newfoundland to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The flight was five or six hours, but on top of that, the St. John's airport was small. There were only a few flights a day that could get a player to Winnipeg and those were usually in the morning.

Plus, players are rarely, if ever, told of the plan. So Redmond would have to pack for an indeterminate amount of time.

"Here you can kind of pack a smaller bag and if you need extra stuff go down and get it after practice or something," Redmond said about Rochester and Buffalo. "But there, you were loading up a hockey bag. You don't know when you're going to be back. So, every time you're essentially preparing to move somewhere else. Unless you're aware. But you're usually not aware of what's going on. You're just preparing to move. So it's definitely different. I can see why they're relocating all the minor league teams now to make it more convenient."

NHL teams are looking to become geographically closer with their AHL affiliates. It's not always the case (the Vegas Golden Knights have their AHL team in Chicago) but it's the trend. Winnipeg's AHL affiliate is now the Manitoba Moose. And the Manitoba Moose play in the same arena as the Jets. So long earl- morning, five-hour flight.

Redmond played for St. John's from 2011 through 2014, getting 18 NHL games with Winnipeg. From there he went to the Colorado Avalanche for two seasons, including 11 games with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, then to Montreal with another stint with St. John's, which by then had become a Canadiens affiliate.

For the record, the St. John's Ice Caps are no more as Montreal moved the AHL franchise to Laval, Quebec.

While the call is always welcomed, the up-and-down hockey life can be a grind. For Redmond, there's a different kind of appreciation of getting the call with this stop in his hockey career thanks to the proximity of Rochester and Buffalo.

"I think it's something you have to go through, maybe," Redmond said. "I had that experience and now I'm seeing this one and it's great. But I think you need to have that perspective to really appreciate it. Because if this was your first stop, you'd be …"

A little spoiled? He smiles and nods his affirmation.

"And you might not realize it," Redmond said. "I think it's a perspective thing."

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