MONTREAL - It was just over four years ago that Tomas Tatar made an entrepreneurial dream come true.
With the help of his good buddy, David Burdej, the pair opened a fitness center in their native Slovakia - FitFabrik - in Dubnica nad Váhom.
Located only a short drive from Tatar's offseason home, it's the 28-year-old forward's training ground all summer long.
The idea to open the facility in his hometown was born out of Tatar's desire to create a one-stop workout location for elite athletes and ordinary citizens alike.
"I was actually inspired by a gym in Michigan, what kind of space they had and how they worked. I always wanted to have something like that for people to be in the best possible shape and for athletes so they could develop their talent and become professionals worldwide," said Tatar. "It helped me, too, because I wanted to train the best way. This was the idea, and we did it. I always dreamed of building a place where I could become a better player."
Training "the best way" meant having access to a variety of fitness tools under the same roof.
That was a point of emphasis for Tatar when the FitFabrik concept was being flushed out heading into construction.
"When I got home to Slovakia, let's say I wanted to do running or I wanted to do some skill stuff, I would always have to go to different places. There wasn't something all together in one place. When an athlete comes to FitFabrik, they won't have to go to different gyms and different spots to get what they need. I wanted to put it all together," explained Tatar. "I wanted something similar to how athletes were working in North America."
Mission accomplished. According to the FitFabrik website, the 13,000 square-foot training area includes a fitness and cardio zone, a CrossFit zone, a fight zone and an aerobic zone, in addition to offering a host of sports-specific training and personal training options, group exercise classes and physiotherapy.
One of the trainers on staff includes Tatar's mother, Maria, who boasts over 30 years of experience in the aerobics domain.
FitFabrik's walls are also lined with motivational materials aplenty - sayings like 'Champions train, losers complain' - to pump up the clientele while they're sweating up a storm.
"That's one of our things. We try to motivate people with all these signs. Our goal is for regular people to be fit, too. We wanted to create an environment where they could hang out and do things as close to professional athletes as possible," indicated Tatar. "I have a huge poster there that basically says 'Only hard work gets you where you want to go.' We have stuff like that everywhere."
These days, the eight-year NHL veteran is beaming with pride about the project, which has exceeded all of his expectations.
"I wasn't really sure what to expect and how big it was going to be, but then a lot of players here from the NHL and from European leagues came and started working out because they liked the atmosphere and the way the gym was built. They wanted to be there. I was trying to set it up so they had the best possible options," mentioned Tatar. "Now, I feel like it's a big community. You can go and just hang out. It's still just starting, but we're definitely working on it to be even better."
Tatar certainly enjoys that community feel, and he makes a point of being as present as possible when he's on Slovakian soil.
"As soon as the offseason starts, I'm there pretty much every day besides the weekends. People are starting to feel more at home there. Even after my workouts are over, I'm still there for a coffee and sitting with friends. I work out from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., and I'm usually there until 2:00 p.m.," said Tatar. "This isn't a big city, so you know pretty much everyone who comes by. A lot of people will come just to hang out."
It goes without saying that Tatar is eager to see what the future has in store for his prized business venture.
"We put this whole plan together and here we are. It's something different than hockey, but it's a great experience," concluded Tatar. "We have this community where we met a lot of different friends from different cities in Slovakia. I try to put time into it during the summer so we can make it even bigger."