Infamously, Barry Melrose coached Steven Stamkos during his rookie season in Tampa Bay, and let the press know his feelings, that “[Stamkos] is not ready for the NHL.” Stamkos’ rookie season also overlapped with Gary Roberts’ last season for the Lightning, a friendship and partnership that has continued until this day.
The confluence of these two things — Stamkos realizing he needed to train hard to be NHL ready, and a good friendship with Roberts — shaped Stamkos’s off-season training forever.
Roberts realized that nutrition and the right training were important to his career at the age of 27, when he retired from the game for 18 months because his body was deteriorating. He claims that it was due to a “diet of wings and beer,” and when he took time off, he rebuilt his strength by eating and training correctly. He rejoined the league and played until his retirement at 43.
After retirement, Roberts began working with NHL players on off-season training. As early as summer 2009, when Stamkos worked with him in his home gym. The next year, Stamkos attended a “boot camp” held by Roberts, one that included 24 other NHL players. The camp focused on nutrition and proper exercises, with Roberts dictating every aspect of the players’ diets and training regimes.
The correlation between this training and on-ice results seemed pretty compelling, according to NHL.com: “Stamkos scored 51 goals in 2009-10 after his first summer training with Roberts. He scored 60 goals [in 2010-11].”
But what does this diet and training consist of?
Roberts said that he spent time fine-tuning how Stamkos thought about diet and fitness first. He told the Montreal Gazette, “The biggest thing for Steve was understanding how to lift weights properly, that was number one. Understanding that to get stronger you follow tempo, that’s what people don’t understand when they lift weights. Understanding exactly what we were trying to accomplish with his weightlifting instead of just working out. And then the nutrition – not eating near enough food. I refined his eating and introduced him to the proper training.”
The types of exercises come in steps. First, Roberts’ regime spends four weeks helping players’ bodies recover from the season, adjusting their bent-over posture and working on evening out their balance. Then, the strength-building exercises begin, with a focus on keeping the heart-rate from getting raised too high during weight training. And finally, because hockey depends on speed, every other day is speed training.
Food is a vitally relevant part of the regime. The players are encouraged to hydrate, and drink a recovery drink with protein, carbohydrates, and amino acids after they work out. Then they eat three meals a day with specifically balanced sets of proteins, fats, vegetables, and carbohydrates.
When asked what these meals consist of, Roberts gave a few guidelines:
“A garden salad with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar,” he said as a starter. “That’s the dressing – it’s not Ranch or Thousand Islands of French. It’s extra-virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar, with some seeds on it. People don’t realize how good seeds are for you, whether it’s pumpkin seeds of hemp seeds or sunflower seeds. That’s a great salad for kids – it’s sub-stance. Kids need substance. And then a chicken breast with some sweet potato and broccoli is a great meal. It’s got your protein, it’s got your long-lasting carbohydrates in the sweet potato. And even put some real butter on that, and you’ve got an ultimate pregame or post-game meal.”
For snacks, Roberts suggests Greek yogurt with berries and flax seed, raw vegetables with humus, raw almonds (if there are no nut allergies) and an apple, trail mix or a tuna wrap.
“I say to guys: ‘Worst-case scenario, put a chocolate milk and a couple of bananas in your hockey bag so when you’re done playing you’ve got something to put in your body right away,’ ” Roberts said. “It’s about preparation. That’s what this whole thing is about. If you prepare properly you’ll succeed.”
But to get a true feeling for Roberts’ regime, watch this.