Comets Tales: Bancks' 45-Hour Trek Home
by Don LaibleMay 16, 2016
There are road trips, and then there are the 45-hours behind the wheel kind of drive that Carter Bancks recently completed.
Bancks' nearly 3,000 miles trek home from Utica wasn't quite Griswold-esque, but it did have its moments where Clark, Rusty, and their family members would have applauded.
Two weeks to the day that the Comets were eliminated from Calder Cup Playoffs by the Albany Devils, Bancks was still decompressing by going off the grid, as he puts it. E-mails have gone unchecked. Golf (lots of golf) is being played, and there are no plans to put on a pair of skates until the middle of next month, at the earliest.
How Bancks, the only Comets player to play in every game this past season, is relaxing back home in Marysville, British Columbia takes a back seat to how he arrived.
Anyone that hits the highway, even with a well laid out plan and a GPS device, knows that sometimes you end up zigging when you wanted to zag - hockey players from Utica included.
As Comets equipment is stowed within The AUD for months to come, and as Bancks bid adieu to the Mohawk Valley for the summer, there was one reminder of a season that saw him collect 38 points (14-24-38) in his rear-view mirror- Joe LaBate.
With his fellow left winger headed home to Minnesota, the plan was for Bancks to be the lead driver all the way to the "The Land of 10,000 Lakes". Just as in any of the National Lampoon's Vacation film series, getting from point A (Utica) to point B (Minnesota), "detours" were experienced.
Listening to Bancks chronologize his ride home, "The Drive" was little more than cruising down or up the New York State Thruway.
"It ended up being 45 hours,” Bancks, who just completed his sixth full AHL season last month, said. "It was a good haul. I did go a little out of the way, once I reached Saskatchewan."
The five hours out of his way (and hundreds of miles tacked on to his trip home), as estimated by Bancks, was to see his friend and former Comets teammate Blair Jones. The two skaters have history beyond their time together this season as Comets.
"We were together in Abbottsford (2012-13 season),” explained Bancks. “I wanted to see him, his girlfriend, and his dog. Throughout the year, we had been talking about getting together after the season.”
But, before seeing Jones, Bancks' 2015 GMC Sierra pickup truck made its way through the Midwest. This is where things got interesting for the two Comets - especially LaBate.
The traveling twosome spent time in South Bend, Indiana, but not to see anything remotely related to Notre Dame. Instead, a tow truck was summoned.
"It wasn't too bad. They dropped an alternator and battery in (Joe's truck). They towed it all the way to Madison, Wisconsin,” said Bancks.
Maneuvering through the Chicago area wasn't an experience he would like to duplicate again. Living in Marysville, separated by a "small forest", as Bancks described it, from Kimberly,BC, big city driving isn't common to him. But, the twosome successfully maneuvered through Cook County.
"We made it through Chicago, and spent the night in Madison", stated Bancks, this season's Tom McVie Award winner - the coach's MVP player.
Once in Madison, LaBate, after a more than 250 mile tow, and Bancks parted ways. LaBate, who played four years in Madison for the Badgers en route to his home base of Eagan, MN, stopped by the Kohl Center. Catching up with familiar faces, and even getting to meet new Badgers coach Tony Granato, were on LaBate's agenda.
For Bancks, once again alone in his Serria pickup, the journey to BC continued.
"When you're driving, your head is bouncing around; from hockey to wanting to see your family,” explained Bancks.
For now, in listening to Bancks hash over the past season, it's not difficult to sense that slowly the sting of an early exit from the playoffs is underway. Not a Twitter account holder, Bancks tells of getting news from friends, including reports on Travis Green, his coach of the past two seasons.
With rumors of Green being in the running for an NHL head coaching assignment, Bancks is quick to give praise to the man who he tags as turning his career around. "He's a great coach who has made me a better player."
As someone who describes themselves as "not a good city driver,” for months to come, Bancks won't have to deal with his deficiency. Kimberly is a tourism community that, according to Bancks, has seven golf courses within 15 minutes of his home.
Having skated in 133 Comets games over the past two seasons, plus playoffs, and having successfully completed a 45-hour commute from Utica, Bancks has well-earned all the tee times he can sign up for.