Canucks plan travel to Boston very carefully

There was nothing random about the Vancouver Canucks’ 2,500-mile

flight to Boston.

There never is when the Canucks hit the road.

Like everything surrounding a team that is two wins away from

its first Stanley Cup title, the travel to the East Coast has been

carefully mapped out. From how and when they get there, to when and

what they eat, to the sleeping arrangements once they arrive and

get ready to play the Bruins in Game 3 of the finals on Monday

night.

”For us, this is not a big deal,” Canucks forward Henrik Sedin

said after arriving in Boston on Sunday afternoon. ”I don’t know

what Boston feels like, because they usually stay in this time

zone. But we’re used to this. We have to plan our day, and when to

sleep and when not to sleep. We’re going to be fresh

tomorrow.”

All the plans have been rooted in science, with players even

wearing specialized bracelets throughout early season road trips to

measure circadian rhythms – internal body clocks – and how they are

affected by travel.

The results are processed and translated under the leadership of

the Canucks’ Director of Sports Sciences, Dr. Len Zaichkowsky, a

former longtime Boston University professor who has consulted with

teams from the NBA’s Boston Celtics to Spain’s World Cup soccer

club.

As a result, Vancouver has tinkered with everything from travel

plans between games to who rooms together. The Canucks are trying

to gain every edge possible.

”Anything that helps even a little bit is worth it,”

defenseman Keith Ballard said of the team’s fatigue management

program. ”We don’t really have to worry about it as players. The

people in charge monitor it, whether it’s what time we fly or

practice or eat – all that stuff. You have to find little

advantages wherever you can.”

Under third-year general manager Mike Gillis, the Canucks also

made significant upgrades to the amenities at home.

As part of a massive rebuild to create an oval locker room (so

nobody is stuck in a corner) they added private chefs to provide

meals – both at the rink and take-home options – and even a ”Mind

Room” where players can get brain training based on psychological

and physiological feedback measured by computers.

How much it helps is open for debate. Some point to Vancouver’s

dominance in the third period this season in which the Canucks

outscored opponents 100-58 before the playoffs and 24-18 in the

postseason.

The Canucks won Game 1 against Boston 1-0 on Raffi Torres’ goal

with 18.5 seconds remaining. In Game 2, Vancouver scored the tying

goal in the third and then won when Alex Burrows netted the

decisive tally 11 seconds into overtime.

It’s hard to argue with how the Canucks went about grabbing a

2-0 lead in the finals.

”Even if it’s just a little tiny bit it’s worth it,” Ballard

said,

Minimizing the effects of a tough travel schedule is very

important to the Canucks, who left the Pacific time zone 15 times

this season. They often had trips that took them through several

clock changes, and then they endured long flights to Chicago and

Nashville during the first two rounds of the playoffs.

”We’re so far away, one of the worst travel teams in the

league,” said forward Chris Higgins, who was acquired from Florida

on Feb. 28 and was soon asked to wear a sleep monitor bracelet on

the road. ”I got here late but it’s certainly something guys were

talking about. They track when you fall asleep, if you wake in the

middle of the night, how long it takes you to fall asleep.

”With our travel, the fatigue adds up, so the more you take

care of it, the better.”

The Canucks have to travel as far east as Minnesota, south to

Colorado and north to Edmonton – and that’s just to play their

rivals inside the expansive Northwest Division. The Bruins play

most of their games in the Northeast, and the division only goes as

far west as Toronto.

So that leaves them a little less accustomed to the kind of trip

created by the quick turnaround between Games 2 and 3. To acclimate

to the time change, the Bruins left their Vancouver hotel at 7 a.m.

for an 8 a.m. flight, arriving in Boston around 4 p.m. Sunday.

”We’re not going to hide the fact that we don’t travel as much

as they do,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said on Sunday. ”They’re

probably used to this more than we are. So I think it was important

for us to really look at it in a way where we had to make it the

best possible way for us. Our travel was planned accordingly. We

wanted to get back on Eastern Standard Time as quickly as we

could.”

The Bruins left the Eastern time zone only four times all

season, and have only been on Pacific Time just five times in three

years. The start of the finals was their third trip out West this

season, and the Bruins didn’t arrive in Vancouver until late

Monday, just over 48 hours before the puck dropped for Game 1.

Boston hopes to head back to Vancouver at least one more time in

the series. They will have to win at least one game there to

capture the Cup and become the fifth team to overcome an 0-2 start

in the finals.

”It definitely takes some time getting used to with your body

and the different times zones,” Bruins forward Nathan Horton said.

”We’re not so used to it playing in Boston.”

The Canucks won’t pretend they are used to playing in Boston, as

they are making just their third visit there in six years.