Time Zones and the NHL Stanley Cup

Time Zone Differences Take Their Toll on Stanley Cup Finalists.

Time zones do matter and especially when it comes to the NHL playoffs.   Simliar to last year’s playoff between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins, this year the  Stanley cup final is being played out over a  greater distance between competing cities than any previous years in recent history with  New Jersey and Los Angeles spanning  2770 miles (4460 kms) and three time zones.

And although the Kings won game one in overtime on a lucky breakaway goal, it appeared that they were struggling to maintain their momentum by the third period.

After the first game win of 3-2 , in his post game interview, LA Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter said, ” We did a good job in the first period based on New Jersey, the way they’ve played in first periods in the playoffs. We knew that was going to be a challenge for us. With the travel, our guys felt sluggish yesterday.”  Of course, it was not just the travel but the jet lag associated with that travel after crossing three time zones to reach New Jersey that Coach Sutter was speaking about. And after today’s game (Saturday, June 2nd) the roles will be reversed and it will be the New Jersey Devil’s turn to suffer the effects of jet lag.

It is difficult to say which team is the most affected by the time differential. The jury is still out as to whether it is harder to adjust to time zone changes when travelling from east to west or from west to east. Suffice it to say, it depends largely on the person and how prepared both mentally and physically he or she may be for the time change.

While there is no objective data  on how the Devils or the Kings  are handling the change in between their respective time zones, the Vancouver Canucks have employed modern science to condition their team into preparing for a playoff with a team located three time zones to the east.  They have employed the services of a sleep consultant, Fatigue Science which uses a system it developed to monitor the sleeping habits of athletes who travel great distances. 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.  With science at their disposal, it now seems that some teams, including the Vancouver Canucks in both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons  turned a 40-year history of the worst travel schedule in the National Hockey League into a competitive advantage even though this year, they lost in the semi finals to Los Angeles, a team in their own time zone that may be discretely using the same science.

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