After receiving hundreds – well, at least five or six – requests for more “Never Hungry League” posts, I snapped a few shots of today’s pregame spread in New York.
Before we hit the buffet line, a quick introduction: the most important thing to understand about the pregame meal is that it’s designed to accommodate every single player’s tastes, routines and superstitions. A single player will usually have the exact same meal from one game to the next, but for some guys that’s steak and potatoes, for others it’s chicken and pasta, and for others it’s fish and rice. It takes a pretty impressive spread to make each of these options (and many more) available.
That being said, for each course, the name of the game is “options.”
The salad bar has no fewer than 20 items to choose from, including three types of lettuce, a farm stand’s worth of veggies, bacon bits, croutons, and at least six types of dressing.
The pasta station includes two shapes, available in both whole wheat and white for a total of four types of pasta. Players can top their dishes with meat sauce, marinara sauce or alfredo. Rice is also available in white and brown varieties, and there are always at least two options of steamed vegetables.
Three proteins are served: grilled chicken breasts, salmon filets and steak. A wide array of whole grain breads, muffins and jams, along with a pot of chicken noodle soup rounds-out the service table.
While the above options can lead to any number of good, basic meals, the real fun starts when players begin to switch up their dishes based on their on-ice success. For instance, a player might start the season with a simple plate of chicken, whole wheat penne, marinara sauce and spinach, but by midseason, he’s done enough tinkering to his meal that he’ll swear by a mash-up of brown rice, white spaghetti, salmon and meat sauce, with a sweet potato on the side…. Whatever it takes to win.
The dessert table includes chocolate and vanilla ice cream with various toppings, pudding, fruit and Jello. The options continue with the drink stand, which includes coffee, tea, water, at least three types of juice, a rainbow of Gatorades and Vitamin Waters, and numerous soft drinks.
Dining tables are stocked with condiments, ranging from the basics, like ketchup, barbeque sauce and steak sauce, to the bizarre, such as vinegars and other pseudo-medicinal sauces that certain players insist calm there stomachs or ease their nerves.
After putting down this kind of meal, it’s no wonder pregame naps are so common. The only difference between the team and my typical Thanksgiving is that, after the Islanders wake up from their food-induced coma, they take down even more calories at the pregame snack. Oatmeal, fruit, granola and yogurt abound around 3pm, along with the same array of breads, spreads and beverages that were available at lunch.