By Steve Keating
BOSTON (Reuters) - Sleep doctors have given the Vancouver Canucks a wake-up call, turning them into the NHL's ultimate road warriors and bringing their Stanley Cup dreams closer to reality.
While the Bruins might struggle with jet lag, the Canucks will not be losing any sleep over the challenge in front of them.
"For us it is not a problem, we fly a lot during the season," Daniel Sedin, told Reuters. "Starting at home every series has been huge for us, not having to go to another city for the first game of a series that has been key.
"That is why it is important to win your conference, you're always going to be at home when you start series. It's big."
With one of the worst travel schedules of any professional sports team in North America, the Canucks recognized they would need to find ways to keep the team sharp on the road if they were ever to challenge for a Stanley Cup.
So they turned to a sleep consultant that works primarily with businesses in the airline, trucking and rail industries to prevent fatigue related accidents.
Fatigue Science, which has also worked with the Australian Olympic Committee as well as several professional rugby teams, uses a system it developed to monitor athlete-sleeping habits.
Researchers then run the results through scheduling software and advise the Canucks on everything from travel and practice schedules to lifestyle choices.
"Simply put, lack of sleep impacts the performance of professional athletes by slowing player reactions times during games, often making the difference between winning and losing," Fatigue Science said in a statement.
"The Vancouver Canucks have turned a 40-year history of the worst travel schedule in the National Hockey League into a competitive advantage."
Despite their schedule, the Canucks finished with the NHL's best away record.
The nearly 2,500 miles and three time zones that separate Boston and Vancouver represents the biggest distance travelled by two teams in a Stanley Cup final in the NHL's modern era.
Only the 1905 Dawson City Nuggets travelled farther in pursuit of the Cup dream undertaking an epic journey by dog sled, ship and rail to Ottawa that took nearly a month to complete to face the Silver Seven.
Teams today travel in chartered airline comfort but the coast-to-coast showdown between the Bruins and Canucks marks a grueling end to a punishing two-month playoff grind that would test even the most-seasoned frequent flyer, never mind battered and bruised hockey players that have endured weeks of pounding.
In a series where winning a championship can hinge on the slightest advantage, a team's ability to deal with the jet lag and fatigue may be enough to tip the balance.
"Every team goes through the same thing but from our perspective we've gotten use to it, it's been part of our routine for a long time," said Canucks Sami Salo. "Adrenaline gives you that extra kick but knowing what to expect helps."
(Editing by Julian Linden)