For Walleye veteran forward Randy Rowe, the wheels on the bus have gone round and round — and round and round.
Rowe reaches a milestone today when he plays in his 600th ECHL game. Rowe boarded a charter bus with his teammates on Tuesday afternoon to make an eight-hour trip to Evansville, Ind. where the Walleye will play the IceMen at 8:15 p.m.
The 32-year-old said he tries not to dwell on the number of hours he has spent playing cards, watching TV, and daydreaming on bus trips during his 12-year pro career.
“I'm sure I've spent a couple years of my life on the bus,” Rowe said with a chuckle. “It's one of those things people don't realize. The first four hours can be fun. We have satellite TV and the guys play cards and joke around. But after that you're just starring at the wall. Your body and brain go numb.
"But it's just one of those things. It's just another day and it's part of the job and you go with the flow.”
Rowe said he and his teammates just returned on Sunday from a 14-hour road trip to South Carolina. It was Rowe's 701st game overall as a professional.
The players will return from Tuesday's trip to Evansville at about 5 in the morning on Thursday and then have get back on the bus for a relatively shorter day trip to Kalamazoo for a game on Friday night.
The players return home for games on Saturday and Sunday at the Huntington Center.
“I've got a lot of hours on the bus on my body,” Rowe said.
He also has an impressive resume dotted with accolades not only for longevity but also for productivity.
Rowe surpassed the 500 mark in career points earlier this season. He now has 512 points with 232 goals and 280 assists.
Rowe was selected as a member of the ECHL All-Decade Team in 2010.
The 6-foot, 195 pound forward has picked up 551 career points (248 G, 303 A), which includes 101 games in the American Hockey League.
“It's not stuff I think about,” Rowe said. “I don't look at stats. The guys on the team know about it. To me it's just another day. I'm very thankful to have played this long. It's been a lot of practices and pre-game skates. I have a lot of respect for the game. So if people think of me that way and give respect back to me I'm just appreciative. I would have loved to have gotten to 1,000 [games] if I hadn't gotten hurt.”
Rowe has fought through back injuries and has herniated discs in his neck.
Rowe currently ranks sixth on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 11 assists in 38 games.
Rowe, who won a junior title in the Ontario Hockey League, has yet to win one in the pros. He believes this Walleye team could change that.
Toledo (27-18-4) has won eight of its last 10 games and is in second place in the North Division, four points behind Cincinnati.
“We have a good core of guys,” Rowe said. “We have trust in each other. We don't really have a first, second, or third line.”
This is the second time around for Rowe in a Walleye uniform. Rowe, who has played for seven other ECHL teams, played in 65 games for the Walleye during the 2010-11 season. He finished fourth on the team in scoring with 19 goals and 30 assists.
He said had played with captain Kyle Rogers and veteran defenseman Wes O'Neill on past teams and he knew defenseman Phil Oreskovic had an impressive resume. He also said the play of rookie goalie Kent Simpson has been pivotal.
Rowe grew up in Burford, Ont., near the hometown of the legendary Wayne Gretzky. He said he feels lucky to still be making a living at pro hockey.
“I'm really competitive,” Rowe said. “We're not playing in this league for money. I love going out there with a challenge every night. No game is the same. You have the opportunity to have that adrenaline rush.”
FISH TALES: The organization is holding its Toledo Hockey Heritage Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
An alumni game featuring players from the Blades, Goaldiggers, and Storm against a group of retired players from the Fort Wayne Komets will take place on Sunday at 2 p.m. prior to the Walleye's game against Fort Wayne at 5:05 p.m.
Players will wear throwback jerseys in the game.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.