Brock Boeser’s eye-popping production is a product of dedication and discipline.
The Vancouver Canucks winger hired a new trainer in the offseason to take his fitness to a new level. He became stronger with and without the puck and played in the hard areas.
He was no longer a perimeter player and gained trust of the coaching staff to help protect a lead or score the game winner.
It produced 13 goals through the first 18 games in a remarkable re-boot that included a career-high four goals in the season opener. Boeser is free of injury and skating freely with mind and body in sync. He is also aware how sleep deprivation factors into performance — especially on long eastern road trips and the first game back home.
Boeser wears a WHOOP wrist monitor that measures fitness and sleep patterns to help reduce fatigue and optimize rest and performance. Lost sleep slows reaction time.
“It monitors your heart rate and you can tell when you fall asleep and when you wake up,” Boeser said Monday. “It tells you how you’re sleeping, depending on your heart rate throughout the night. And it also tracks your activity throughout the day.
“It’s just getting an idea of how much you sleep because you don’t actually fall asleep for the first 45 minutes. When people think they’re sleeping for seven hours, it’s actually six.”
And being on a lengthy trip out east only adds to the stress of ensuring proper rest.
“Those first few nights you’re staying up pretty late because you can’t fall asleep,” stressed Boeser. “Midnight there is 9 p.m. in Vancouver and sometimes it’s tough acclimating to that and doing everything you can.”
Some of it is simple: Go to bed earlier. Don’t go to bed with a full stomach.
“As I got older, I started to go to sleep earlier with having more responsibilities,” added Boeser. “I’m not a young kid who’s staying up as late anymore. I think it’s really important.”
The Canucks travel a day early to commence long eastern trips. They will practise the next day and then hope they’re acclimated for the following game night. And upon arrival, getting to the gym first is more important than heading straight to dinner.
“We always try to get a little sweat in there to get the body going,” added Boeser. “Coming back home can be tough, too. If you have a 7 p.m. game, it can feel like 10 p.m. Your body just gets acclimated to being out east and now you’re back in Pacific time.
“That’s why we stayed over in Nashville (Oct. 24), just to help our bodies acclimate. We had a day off back home and then a full practice. It has come a long way. There are supplements to help your body relax after a game and making sure everyone is getting their sleep.”
The pursuit of better sleep and less fatigue started long ago.
Former Canucks general manager Mike Gillis was adamant that addressing the effects of those long eastern road sojourns on players’ mind, body and sleep patterns were crucial to keep his highly-competitive club functioning at an elite level.
It started in 2008 and became more evident as the Canucks started their long march to the Stanley Cup final. Following a five-game, 11-day eastern road swing in February of 2011, the weary Canucks returned home. Two days later, they were hammered 7-1 by the Chicago Blackhawks.
The outcome didn’t surprise those who understand how time zones can mess with sleep patterns and performance, especially for professional athletes.
Fatigue Science is a leader in fatigue-related risk management and human performance optimization and started working with the Canucks in the 2010-11 season. The company issued ReadiBands to track players’ sleep data on how long it took them to fall asleep, how often they were awake during the night, whether they slept on charter flights or even on the bus to and from airports.
It helped decide whether the Canucks would stay overnight after an eastern road trip game if it would prove beneficial for better sleep and more energy. It must have. They went a league best 27-10-4.
Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet had sleep challenges as a player on long trips and how to combat it. That has never changed.
“That’s the key,” he said. “A lot of guys have monitors. I always ask how they slept and it’s nice to hear they’re getting eight or nine hours because that’s optimal. We’ve had a presentation on sleep stats and hydration and nutrition and we try to get players information all the time.”
Even off days are under evaluation.
“It’s important when you have a rest day that you have an active rest and not on your couch all day eating potato chips,” added Tocchet. “Whether it’s moving your body or going for a walk, or pedal a bike, it actually helps your mind and your energy level, too.”