TORONTO - John Tavares had a secret.
It was still well before noon on a weekday when the ascendant hockey star had dipped into his second tumbler of ice cream. One of his colleagues had admitted to eating at least three, but he did not have a broken foot like Tavares, whose walking boot would have prevented him from burning the calories of his coveted frozen treats.
"Hopefully," Tavares said, "the team back in New York doesn't hear about this and I can sneak these few in."
It would have been hard to keep that secret from his team, the Islanders, for very long considering Tavares had been caught on tape lifting spoonful after spoonful into his mouth as part of a charity event on Thursday. American ice cream maker Ben&Jerry's has teamed up with the NHLPA to launch a new flavour in Canada, with portions of the proceeds going to the union's Goals&Dreams fund to support grassroots hockey.
Tavares was on hand to help launch the promotion at a downtown Toronto arena with Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn, Ottawa Senators forward Jason Spezza and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, who claimed to have downed three containers before lunch.
All four claimed to share the kind of secret Tavares would like to keep from New York.
"Usually, the ice cream's done right after the season, then once the training starts, you try to get off it a little bit," Spezza said with a smile. "But I've got a bit of a sweet tooth, so every once in a while, I indulge a bit."
Spezza made news when he set out on a path blazed by notorious fitness guru Gary Roberts seven years ago. Roberts was militant about his diet as a player, and by hiring his personal trainer, it was said Spezza's fridge had been filled with elements such as buffalo meat and organic eggs.
There was no mention of ice cream.
"If you go home and eat a container, you're probably going to feel a little bit guilty," Schenn said. "But if you treat yourself to a little bit, it's not too bad—and most guys get so much exercise, it's probably not a big deal."
That does not mean he is immune to binging.
"You try not to eat it right after a workout," Schenn said. "But sometimes, when you're sitting around watching TV at night, you'll probably have some. It usually is in the freezer, and it usually doesn't stick around too long."
Stamkos finished in a tie with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby for the NHL's regular season scoring crown with 51 goals, and he appeared to lead the way again on Thursday with his unashamed consumption of ice cream.
"It's actually pretty funny," he said. "In every pre-game meal we have during the season, there's always some ice cream in there for the guys. So it's definitely something I eat on a regular occasion during the season."
Tavares even suggested it helps some players sleep.
"After a bad game, it's always nice to make yourself feel a little better and have a nice dessert," he said. "On the road with the pre-game meal, ice cream is one of the things we have before our nap."
The flavour unveiled on Thursday was called "Caramel Hat Trick," produced with a combination of caramel ice cream, fudge-covered caramel chunks and a caramel swirl. Ben&Jerry's is working in tandem with the NHLPA Goals&Dreams program.
"I don't recommend eating an entire tub of our product," Ben&Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield said. "I think you should scoop some out of the container and into a bowl, and eat that. You're not supposed to eat it right out of the pint container."
Greenfield said he played intramural hockey in college.
"I believe that there are important psychological aspects of eating and playing," Greenfield said, straight-faced. "We need to keep our blood sugar levels up, as well."