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The Straight Edge: Eating healthy an important step to the NHL

Jared Cowen was selected by the Ottawa Senators ninth overall in last June's draft. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Jared Cowen was selected by the Ottawa Senators ninth overall in last June's draft. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Even though there has been a recent trend of players jumping straight from junior to the NHL, it hasn’t been a simple coronation in most cases. No matter how highly a prospect is regarded, the summer before the season is crucial in turning a boy into a man.

And based on what I ate as a teenager (and, let’s face it, most days of the week now), it’s important to note the sacrifice pro athletes make to achieve their dreams.

“You have to be smart,” said Jared Cowen, who went ninth overall to Ottawa in 2009. “You don’t eat chocolate bars and chips or stuff like that.”

Most teams (including the Senators) hold development camps for their rookies and nutrition is always a component. Knowing what your body needs and how much it needs can be crucial for a big kid like Cowen.

“Right now it’s not too bad because I’m not doing a lot of cardio, but if I have a big workout I eat as much as I can,” said the 6-foot-5, 220-pound defenseman.

A typical breakfast for the Spokane Chiefs product might include egg whites – whole eggs would be too much cholesterol, Cowen noted – whole wheat toast, waffles or porridge.

“Coming out of junior, now you’re preparing for the pro level where guys are bigger, stronger and more experienced,” said P.K. Subban, who hopes to crack the Montreal Canadiens roster this fall. “The main focus for everybody is to try and get as strong as possible. If you can add a bit of size and it doesn’t affect your speed, then that’s great. That’s the direction I’ve taken.”

While many prospects are trying to gain weight in the summer, Subban actually works to keep his 210-pound frame down in mass.

“I start working out and I gain weight,” said the former Belleville Bull. “But I was on a really good diet and I stuck to it. I’ve put on a little bit of muscle, but not too much.”

One of the secrets to Subban’s success has been an emphasis on protein, as the young defenseman has seen great gym results thanks to a steady diet of chicken, steak and fish. For muscle building, players largely avoid carbohydrates, but come back in once skating resumes.

“You gotta have a balance,” Subban said. “Eating correctly, but also having a balance.”

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Tyler Bozak has gone through an incredible change since getting hurt in his final year at the University of Denver. The skilled center has put on nearly 30 pounds of weight to his frame (he’s now 6-foot, 197 pounds).

“It’s been a good summer,” Bozak said. “I never really knew about the diet and the good eating…I’m shocked how well it works.”

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The New York Rangers are hoping for big things from offensive defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, so the youngster spent the summer trying to add to his now-188-pound frame. But with speed also important, the blueliner knew not to rush things, either.

“A lot of it will come with age and maturing,” Sanguinetti said. “But I’ve been eating a lot of chicken, rice and salads, staying away from the fatty foods and fast foods.”

And even though temptation is there, the kids already know how to act like pros.

“You’ll drive past a fast food place and every once in a while you look at it,” said Sanguinetti, who proudly hasn’t caved to McDonald’s lately. “It’s not tough to do.”

Considering the reward for such sacrifice is the chance to live out a dream on NHL ice surfaces, maybe missing the odd Big Mac isn’t such a chore.

Prospects strive to crack lineup

REPORTER: Ryan Kennedy | PRODUCER: Ted Cooper

 

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays. 

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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