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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Marek Zagrapan (Photo: Brian Wheeler)
Some statistics are vital to the coaching staff.

The ones displayed on the HD Video Board at HSBC Arena today were no exception.

But while the numbers that ran across the screen had little to do with goals and assists, Strength and Conditioning Coach Doug McKenney explains that they are every bit as important.

Implementing a new system, called SUUNTO, the statistics fed to the video board instantly monitor players’ heart rates as they practice.

“We’ve used heart rate monitors before,” McKenney said. “But it wasn’t real time… We had watches and belts for everybody on the team and they would wear them on their pants or on their wrists. You would have to ask to see their watches to get the heart rate throughout the day.

“This new system is much less limited. What you are seeing up here is real time. If you and I were working out and we had the belts on, what you see up on the screen is their real heart rate… There are no delays so it’s a little bit better of a system being able to just glance up… Now I can actually get an instant response for the coaching staff.”

The technology provides crucial information that trainers and coaches use to determine how much a player is working out, and whether they are conditioning properly.

“Obviously we want to know where they are training in our practices,” McKenney said. “We will do it off-ice as well; on the bikes and treadmills. We want them training in the zones that are going to improve their level of fitness.”

The system displays a grid on the video board, labeled with each player’s name, their actual heart rate and their maximum heart rate. Depending on what the individual is doing on the ice, the grid changes colors to reflect their activity.

McKenney hopes that these alerts will help to eliminate players from overtraining.

“A lot of times what you will see typically in a certain practice is a guy will elicit a heart rate response. If he is not eliciting that heart-rate response and he is working… that signifies that they may be at a point at which they are overtrained and really fatigued… You will recognize it from what we call an EPOC value (excess post oxygen consumption) which means they are working pretty hard but their heart rate really is not going up.”

Having the SUUNTO system makes it easier to identify such issues.

“We would have to address his recovery time, which we can have an impact on as coaches… maybe he has to rest a little bit more. Certainly the nutrition standpoint comes into play as well. We have to look at it and make sure he has enough energy and enough fluid replaced and all of those things are going to impact that.

"There is a learning curve with everything… it’s going to be a valuable tool to us. I’ve had to change to this program and it’s challenging and we have to get quite a few things right. We have to make sure those max heart rates are right… especially if they are color-coded and we are looking at red, blue, yellow, green. They represent something and we want to make sure all of that stuff is in order.

“But I think in the end we benefit greatly from it. The other program as good as it was, it was limited compared to this one. So far, it has been really helpful.”
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