Guelph health and nutrition professor has gig advising Chicago Blackhawks

Jamie Burr is no stranger to working with teams in the National Hockey League.
The human health and nutritional sciences professor at the University of Guelph is currently working with the Chicago Blackhawks.He said he’s addressed specific problems while working with other teams around the NHL. So, when he was approached by the organization in 2023, he thought he was going to be working in a similar role.“They had some problems, and I could give some insight, so we started there and it evolved from there. They saw some value in what I knew, in what I could bring to the team,” Burr said.“The school was really understanding and saw the value of me working with an NHL team for the school as well, so it evolved into a win-win.” Story continues below advertisement

Burr is the team’s high-performance advisor, helping improve the players’ on-ice performances and training regimen.He said the difference between working with the team’s veterans and rookies comes down to the individual.“I think one of the biggest changes, not just in hockey but in professional team sports in the last while, has been the idea and understanding that we can’t train the team as if they’re all the same because they’re not,” Burr said.

“A guy like Nick Foligno, who’s been doing it a for a very long career, may adapt in one way. He’s already probably pretty good at some of those things. But he’s getting a little bit older so maybe the stress on his body is different than it is for Conor Bedard, who’s young, maybe he hasn’t been bag skated as much. So, the idea is individualizing that, understanding what’s hard for whom.”

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Burr said he’s not looking for one thing when he utilizes data to examine human performance, but “a bunch of things.”Burr said he looks at everything when it relates to high performance and analytics, including strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, nutrition, and tracking and adjusting data in practices and games.“Depending on the question, it’s trying to figure out what matters the most,” he said. Story continues below advertisement

He’s been a consultant for other NHL teams and has previously worked with Olympic athletes.He said the experience of working with Olympic athletes allowed him to bring a different perspective to the job.“Sometimes we see in sports, we get entrained in the way things have always been done, and that’s not just a hockey thing, that’s every sport,” he said. “I think having a perspective that maybe there’s a different way to do it, that can be really useful.”In addition to his role with the team, Burr works with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. He said his approach at the minor league level isn’t that different than it is at the professional level.

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Through his experience Burr said he has used data to help improve the game of professional hockey.And having been involved with performance research for a long time, he said analytics in the sport will continue to evolve.“I think the models will become more complex. I think the questions we ask will become more fine-tuned as we start to understand more,” he said. “I think there’s lots of room for growth.”Burr started working with the organization last summer. He is currently on leave from the U of G, and he’ll be back teaching next year. Story continues below advertisement

Burr said he is excited to bring back the lessons he’s learned from working with the team.“I find students really relate to applied examples,” he said.“We take a really scientific approach here at Guelph as well, and I use that with the Blackhawks; how do we run tests and gather information so that it’s useful and we can make decisions based on that? That’s where I think we see the advantages and then that’s what I hope to bring to the students as well.”Burr signed a three year-deal with the organization. He said the Blackhawks are in a rebuild right now and is hopeful the team is playoff-bound in the near future.“It’s really exciting to see the young talent coming up and where we’re going to be,” he said.“It’s starting to put those pieces together, lay the groundwork for what’s the Chicago way: how do we do this and how do we do it better than other teams? I’m hoping in the next couple of years, we’re a playoff contender.”

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