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
”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
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
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
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
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
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.