Long Island held its breath Tuesday, as Islanders captain John Tavares left the ice after falling awkwardly into the boards. Tavares acknowledged that his hip was sore, but number 91 was in his rightful place Thursday night, centering the Islanders top line for the 227th consecutive game.
Tavares is the Islanders reigning ironman and hasn’t missed a game since sitting out three in a row from Oct. 11-15, 2010. Playing in his fifth season, the Isles current leading scorer has only missed three games.
“John is a really tough player and high-skill guys don’t always get credit for that,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “His battle-level is always high and he’s willing to get in the dirty areas and do whatever it takes every night.”
For an elite player who plays big minutes and draws some of the toughest attention from opposing defenses, his ironman streak is even more impressive. There’s a lot of work that goes into keeping himself healthy and fit to play.
“It’s not just going out to practice,” Tavares said. “I do a lot of things at home, which makes a big difference. Every year I try new things and try to improve.”
Tavares puts a lot of emphasis on his work and training regimen away from the ice. He experiments with therapeutic measures like cold tubs, massages and infrared sauna. Tavares also strictly watches his diet and does yoga in the offseason.
His teammates take notice of how the captain takes care of himself. Over the summer, Kyle Okposo switched up his own training and also made a trip to Toronto to train with Tavares. Okposo happens to be enjoying a fantastic start to the season with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 20 games.
“He makes sure that his body is functioning in the best way that it can to play hockey,” Okposo said. “He’s a real professional in that sense. A lot of us can learn a lot from the way he trains and his body works.”
The workouts are essential to being in that hockey shape Okposo referenced, but so is listening to your body and allowing for adequate recovery. The workouts Tavares doesn’t do are sometimes just as important as the ones he does, exemplified by sitting out Wednesday’s practice.
“My first year showed me how important rest is,” he said. “As an organization we take a lot of pride in listening to your body and taking the correct protocol. Sometimes you really need to take that break, rest and truly take time to recover.”
“Yeah, it helped big time,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty good today (Nov. 15) and I didn’t feel anything bad (last night).”
The ironman suits up for game 228 Saturday night at 7 p.m.