If it seems strange that the Oilers played the Joey Moss Cup at night for the first time since its inception, it is.
But people around the team should get used to it. A lot of things are going to be run differently from now on.
As promised at the end of last season, the Oilers, who led the league with a staggering 531 man games lost to injury in 2009-10, and had been gutted by injuries three of the last four years, took a long, hard look at how they do things.
And while the consensus is that many of those 531 lost games were to impact injuries and the like (bad luck, in other words), they also realized they could be running their ship far more effectively.
“The majority of our injuries were surgeries, blocked shots and dislocations, back surgeries and things,” said assistant athletic therapist Chris Davie. “So without pounding the 500 games lost, we put it on the table and said what are we doing as an organization that is just tradition, but doesn’t make sense? We said let’s look at every category. We had a lot of meetings.”
The club looked at sleep studies, re-examined travel and practice habits, brought in a nutritionist for one-on-one consultations … basically poked and prodded every aspect of their day-to-day operations in search of an edge.
“If one coach wanted to stay somewhere because he liked a certain hotel, that becomes the norm,” said Davie. “Like having a golf tournament on the San Jose-L.A. trip. It becomes what we do. But at a certain point you think, you know what, we should really start thinking about winning.
“Instead of it being, ‘We always leave at this time because we like being in Boston at this time,’ we’re talking into account time change, whether we should practise when we land, when we should leave, all those things.”
Some of the safety measures are old-school — bringing back big Steve MacIntyre will ensure the Oilers are treated with a little more respect — and some are cutting-edge.
The Boston Celtics did a sleep study, for example, and identified which of their players are “morning people” and which ones walk around in a fog till the third coffee kicks in. In afternoon games, the morning people get more court time.
The Oilers, starting with Tuesday’s scrimmage, will tailor their travel, practice and rest habits toward the body clock, as well.
“You really have to get to your next destination as quickly as possible rather than staying overnight,” said head coach Tom Renney. “Guys toss and turn in their beds because of being jacked from the game anyway, so get on the plane, get to wherever you’re going and sleep there. Get the body clock on the local time zone as quickly as possible.”
Renney also plans on giving the players more rest days, especially with the Western travel schedule.
“You have to give your athletes a chance to regenerate, a day off here and there,” he said.
With so many young players on the team this year, the club needs to instill healthy habits early.
“Everything is back to basics,” said Davie. “Teach them how to eat, how to sleep, how to hydrate. All these kids know is what they’ve learned riding on the bus, or over in Europe.”
These lessons won’t make them bullet proof — it doesn’t matter how long you’ve slept if somebody rips a puck off your ankle — but there are things they can do to keep themselves fresher, sharper and better.
“If you’re not eating properly, sleeping properly or you’re dehydrated, everyone in the real world even knows that those things set you up for a fall.”