The Boston Bruins went back to China to help expand the sport abroad. While they did their usual camp for kids earlier this summer, this year during the beginning of the preseason, half of the Bruins headed back over to China to play the Calgary Flames in two exhibition games in Shenzhen and Beijing. The time difference plays havoc with anyone’s body, but imagine going over there for ten days and then returning to the states, having two days off and then jumping right back into training camp, while your body was still adjusting to the 12-hour time difference.
Those of the Bruins who got to experience China spoke highly of the overall trip.
“It was unique, it was something special. I think, well for me anyways, it was obviously something I never thought I’d be able to do, especially from hockey—go to China—and the on-ice experience itself was interesting as well. The fans are pretty crazy. It was a great atmosphere.,” shared Jake DeBrusk. “There was beautiful rinks. Had no complaints at all about that except obviously the last game, but… and seeing how we won both games, that helps as well.”
However, it’s clear that those who made the trip are still finding their bodies reacting in some strange ways, as they readjust to Eastern time zone.
“Uh, yeah, it’s uh, I think I’m pretty close to back. Actually going there, my sleep schedule was way tougher than coming back so, but I think my body’s coming around finally,” Chris Wagner described.
“I think I’m still readjusting a little bit, just sleepwise. I woke up at six o’clock this morning and was staring at the ceiling. I think there’s days where you feel great and you feel like you’re back to normal and then you wake up the next day and you feel like you woke up in the middle of the night,” Ryan Donato said. “So I think it’s back and forth, but I think in the next week and a half or so, I’ll feel completely back to normal.”
Of course, this was Donato’s second trip to the Orient, as he was part of Team USA who participated in the 2018 Olympics in February in PyeongChang, Korea—which is a 14-hour time difference. He took notes from that trip to help him reacclimate.
“Well I think one of the things for me is like proper hydration and the type of things that they teach you when you’re getting ready for the Olympics to make sure you’re hydrated and you’re sleeping at certain times of the day. You’re not receptive to the light during the day,” explained Donato. “These are some things that are kind of the nerdy stuff that I picked up on when I was there, that I kind of brought back for myself and used here so that I can kind of adjust as fast as I possible could to be ready for games.”
Elite athletes, especially hockey players appreciate their routines. During the regular season, even a matinee game can affect their overall performance because they didn’t get to take their nap or do other things they normally do to prepare for an evening game. Even a change in the size of the rink can affect a player’s game.
“China was a good experience, but it was definitely tough on the body. Also, the big ice. I don’t know if I’m quite made for it, uh, for my kind of play,” chuckled Wagner. “But I definitely felt way better last night [Monday against Flyers] and think I’m coming along in practice, kind of getting the systems down and, you know, the way [Coach Cassidy] wants us to play. So, definitely a process, but it’s coming along.”
And due to a couple of hiccups with their equipment those who were in China found they had a little less time on the ice, especially practice time. Of course, being professionals, they just rolled with it, but having returned and rejoined those who were practicing in the states, they can see some differences.
“There’s a lot of differences. You know, camp is much different this year. It didn’t feel like training camp the first ten days, so it’s a lot nicer to be back here and with the group trying to get back into things before the season starts,” Brad Marchand stated.
Marchand was part of Team Canada two seasons ago, playing in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey which actually delayed the start of the NHL season, and precluded him from participating in part of the Bruins training camp that year. However, the lack of ice time in China seems to have been a bigger issue this year.
“Yeah, for sure, especially with how things kind of played out over there. We were probably on the ice half the amount of the guys over here. Some say we’re a little bit behind, just skating-wise, you know, than maybe we would be in past seasons, but there’s enough time,” Marchand described. “I’m starting to feel good and I think we’re getting there. The practices have been really good, high tempo, so it all helps.”
Routine, up-tempo practices with players you have spent a season or more with, coupled with the amazing trainers and the familiarity of home help right along with readjusting to the time zone. It is all playing into and helping those who traveled to China get back to their elite level in time for the opening of the NHL season.