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Canucks rely on science to ease rigors of travel

Vancouver relied on a sleep consulting firm to help develop the optimal times for the team to fly and practice.

Monday, 06.06.2011 / 6:13 PM / Features
By Dan Rosen
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Canucks rely on science to ease rigors of travel
The best road team in the NHL this season despite a rigorous travel schedule, Vancouver relied on a sleep consulting firm to help develop the optimal times for the team to fly and practice.

The Canucks were the best road team in the NHL in spite of the geographical quandary they find themselves in being the lone team in the Pacific Northwest.

They've been pretty darn good away home in the playoffs despite having to travel through two time zones en route to dispatching Chicago and Nashville.

Now the Canucks find themselves all the way across the continent in Boston gearing up for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. They say they're fresh, there is no jet lag and they're confident that they have the travel advantage over the Boston Bruins.

They're not this way by accident. Science has played a role in the Canucks' road success.

When Mike Gillis took over as general manager and president in 2008 he contracted a sleep consulting firm to help the team overcome the obvious rigors of fatigue related to travel and time zone changes. Fatigue Science put together a system to monitor the Canucks' sleep habits that gives the Canucks' medical staff data to determine the proper times for the teams to fly and practice.

Due to their geographic location, the Canucks have no choice but to fly to every road game. And save for Calgary and Edmonton, every flight is at least two hours long.

Nevertheless, Vancouver's road record has never been better than it was this season (27-10-4), and that's due in part to their dominance in the third period (100 goals for vs. 58 against), another sign that fatigue has not been an issue for the Canucks.

They're 5-3 on the road this postseason with a 21-16 scoring edge over their opponents in the third period. They won Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final because they were able to take over in the third.

"Because we travel the most in the NHL, that's one of the reasons why we try to get a scientific approach to where our guys would have the utmost energy," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "I do think that, combined with both Roger (Takahashi) and Glenn (Carnegie) monitoring our conditioning the way they do, it certainly seems to be beneficial."

The data is collected early in the season when, during road trips, Vancouver players wear wrist bands designed to take measurements when they sleep, determining how they're sleeping, if they're in a deep sleep or a light sleep. Fatigue Science then runs the data through its software to advise the Canucks on the best approach to travel, practice, eating habits and even determining who should room with who in the hotel.

"They look at all the guys, how they're sleeping, and it shows if you should stay over in a city or fly right after the game," Daniel Sedin told NHL.com. "It works especially if you've been on a four- or five-game road trip. It really decides if we're going to stay over and fly the next day, or fly right after the game."

The Canucks decided to fly out of Vancouver at 10 a.m. PT Sunday, whereas the Bruins left two hours earlier. Daniel Sedin believes that extra two hours of sleep are an advantage to the Canucks.

He still woke up early Monday because his body clock was on Vancouver time, but he feels as good as ever.

Part of that is mental.

"We know they've done everything they can to put us in a good position with the sleep," Daniel Sedin said Monday morning from TD Garden. "We're going to travel when we're supposed to travel. We don't worry about those types of things. We know we're going to have an advantage over other teams."