Bulls, Blackhawks Prepare for Annual Circus Trip

Teams move out, Ringling Brothers move in

It's unintentional, but if there is a more apt name for the Bulls' and Blackhawks' annual two-week United Center vacancy, I've yet to hear it. "Circus Trip" pretty much covers all the bases.

The famed circus trip is, of course, that yearly stretch of time in November when the Bulls and Blackhawks are forced out on the road by the Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey Circus' arrival at the United Center. Instead of taking short stretches of away games, and then stopping home for a rest, the teams head out west for game after game of grueling five-star hotel suites and 80 degree weather. It sounds awful, doesn't it?

Of course, we kid. Thanks to the travel and the opponents and some nebulous and shared quality of failure, the circus trip has traditionally been a disaster for the Bulls. Since Michael Jordan was a Bull, Chicago has gone 6-52 -- 6-52! -- on the stretch. That's more frightening than clowns, and we hate clowns.

The Blackhawks have traditionally had less of a problem with the circus trip than the Bulls, but they've still had problems: The last time they didn't post a losing record was in 2000-01, when they went 3-3-0. Since then, well, it's been difficult to distinguish whether the Hawks were just bad, or whether being away from home for so long was really taking its toll. Either way, the losses piled up.

What of this year, then? The Bulls couldn't ask for a much more brutal schedule. They start in L.A. against the Lakers, then travel to Portland, Golden State, Denver, Utah, San Antonio, and finish up in Philadelphia. Yeesh. All those "@" symbols on the Bulls schedule make it look like a Twitter feed and, with the possible exception of Golden State, there isn't an even moderately easy game in the bunch.

The Blackhawks have it much easier. They travel to play the Coyotes, Stars, Maple Leafs, Sharks, Ducks, and Kings. The ever-genteel folks at the Blackhawks message boards seem to be setting the bar right at .500 on the trip. Reasonable enough.

The Bulls would do just about anything for measly .500 on the circus trip. Circus, indeed.

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