When Blue Jackets first round draft pick Kerby Rychel dreamed of being a professional hockey player, he never thought he’d end up in a kitchen.
But that’s exactly where Rychel and the 30 other players invited to the Blue Jackets’ 2013 Development Camp found themselves this week. In addition to on-ice work, this year’s schedule, put together by Blue Jackets Development Coach Chris Clark, included sessions on financial management, social media, nutrition and cooking classes.
“It’s something I’m going to need to do,” Rychel said. “ Obviously I’m going to be living on my own, I’m going to need to learn how to cook and manage money and stuff like that. It’s really important. You don’t realize that as a young player. You just want to get to the NHL, but once you mature, I think you really realize what you need to do on and off the ice.”
For today’s hockey player, the concept that your body is your career is becoming more and more apparent.
“A lot of them are leaving home for the first time,” said Clark. “Being young, and starting early you want to have the array of what to cook, what’s the best thing to cook… to optimize their performance.”
In addition to practicing slap shots, puck handling, and defensive drills, this past week had camp invitees spend an hour with a nutritionist and then, over the course of two nights, cook dinner for themselves and their coaches with the help of Nationwide Arena chefs.
To prepare the guys for a night in the kitchen, local Wellness Coach Alexandria Ianni, spoke with the players about what to eat, when to eat, and how to prepare their food. Ianni taught the Jackets prospects how to fuel their body pre- and post-workout, and addressed the differences in diets focused on gaining size, maintaining weight, or reducing body fat.
“To make sure that they are consuming lean proteins and carbohydrates at the times when its important and fats when it’s important, especially those pre-, during, post-workout meals” is the one take away Ianni stressed after answering questions from the group.
Teaching young athletes how to be responsible for their diets can sound challenging, but Ianni provided tips on building menus, shopping, food preparation and having the right options available when you are on the go.
“As long as you make it easy, it’s not as hard – stick with easier options like microwavable rice, bagged broccoli and cauliflower, pre-cut veggies,” said Ianni.
With that, it was off to the kitchens.
Jackets players broke into three teams and, working with Chef de Cuisine John DiGiovanni, Executive Chef Joseph Ditri, and Chef Ed Kowalski, the men got to work rotating through preparation of three meals – chicken fajitas, shrimp and quinoa pasta, and steak with asparagus and sweet potato fries, the last ingredient being something new to some of the Jackets arriving from Europe.
The food turned out well, according to Rychel.
“I’m going to have to learn,” he said. “I’ll probably get in the kitchen this summer.”
In the end, Development Camp is about education. And the Blue Jackets organization is counting on a lot of this information sticking with players throughout the coming season, regardless of where they play.
“A lot of guys are scared of the kitchen and don’t know exactly what to do – but these chefs make it easy,” said Clark. “I think it used to be ‘I’m a good hockey player’…it was ‘talent and work hard’. But now you look at (how) everybody’s got a strength coach… I think they’re learning earlier in their careers than later. We’re trying to get these guys in the beginning and make it optimal throughout their careers.”
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