TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – They’re two of the biggest players associated with the Red Wings, so it’s easy to understand the affinity that Jared Coreau and Marc McNulty have for food.
Big guys love to eat and the Wings’ slender prospects are no different.
Though the two prospects consume large amounts of calories for different reasons -- Coreau wants to maintain weight; McNulty is trying to put pounds on – they have to be smart about their food choices.
“I’ve always been pretty lanky so I’ve always been trying to gain weight and eat lots, but obviously you want to eat healthy stuff,” said McNulty a 6-foot-6 defenseman drafted by the Wings in 2013. “You want to put on the right weight.”
On Monday, prospects attending the Red Wings’ five-day development camp in northern Michigan were treated to more than hockey. Campers were shuttled to Northwestern Michigan College where they received a cooking course meant to help them make smart nutritional choices.
For years, Lisa McDowell, the team’s registered dietician, has educated elite college, pro and Olympic athletes about the consequences of poor nutritional habits. She presented the Monday afternoon lesson and assisted players in whipping up nine delicious dishes in the culinary arts kitchen.
“The guys who buy into what Lisa has to say about the importance of putting this into their body compared to that, combined with the exercises, only helps to maximize their potential on the ice to fast track them to the NHL,” said Kris Draper, who logged 20 seasons as a player before becoming a special assistant to Wings GM Ken Holland three years ago.
Like the game itself, nutrition for today’s hockey players has evolved from the meat-and-potato days of their Original Six-era grandfathers.
It doesn’t seem that long ago when players reported to training camp to sweat off the pounds accumulated during the offseason. But today’s players are another breed. They arrive at camp in amazing physical condition, thanks to better nutrition and 12-month training regimens.
“This is why you see the skill of these guys coming in, the size and strength of these guys,” Draper said. “You have such an advantage from when we were playing 20-25 years ago with the two biggest things and that’s nutrition and fitness “
Aside from the intense on-ice instruction that 44 campers are receiving at the annual camp – which concludes with an intra-squad scrimmage Tuesday morning at Centre Ice Arena – learning aspects of independent living is important for the teenagers and young 20-somethings. Many of these players moved away from home to play junior and college hockey, so simple tasks like preparing healthier alternatives to macaroni and cheese is usually foreign to these guys.
“My parents were always home for dinner, and we didn’t really eat out that much,” McNulty said. “Since I was little I’ve always been used to eating at home, getting stuff made at home instead of taking the unhealthy option.”
Still, the cooking class is a tool for many of these players, said Coreau, who is still making some of the recipes that he learned at last year’s development camp.
“We made a chicken parmesan with not as much breading on it,” he said. “We made an avocado and Greek yogurt spread for salmon fillets, which is really good. Quinoa, which is really good, and I hadn’t eaten until then and now I eat it every week, probably twice a week.”
Coreau, a 6-foot-5 goalie, easily devours 5,000 to 6,000 calories each day.
On an average day, his breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts; a four-egg omelet with spinach, tomatoes and an English muffin for extra carbohydrates. By mid-morning he snacks on carrots or a fruit cup before starting a workout. For lunch, it’s two apples with two cans of tuna fish and walnuts mixed together with some vinegar. Later in the day, he has chicken, oranges, almonds, and for dinner it just meat, a lot of different-colored vegetables, and maybe a sweet potato. Before bed it’s a protein snack like yogurt with lots of berries.
Coreau’s chloric intake is necessary for him to maintain his 200-pound playing weight, but it’s not always easy to eat so much.
“I’m eating maybe 6-7 times throughout the day throwing in a few little snacks,” Coreau said. “There are times every day where I don’t want to eat but I know if I don’t I might lose a few pounds where in the season it’s so important to maintain weight. Everyone thinks, ‘Well, you have to work out.’ That’s part of it but eating is a huge thing.”
McNulty, Detroit’s sixth-round draft pick last year, has struggled in the past to put weight on, though he’s gained 23 pounds since last July. He now weighs 208 pounds.
“I went to see a dietician a few years ago and she gave me a rough outline of what I should be eating each day, especially when you know you’re going to have a lot of activity. I’m just trying to follow that.”
Maintaining a healthy nutritional profile is paramount for future success of these young prospects, but they are only human, and on occasion, give in to certain guilty pleasures like chicken wings.
“Whenever you have the five dollar wings specials at a restaurant that’s hard to turn down,” McNulty said. “That’s probably the worst for me.”
Traveling can be another saboteur for players during the season, though Coreau has found a good alternative to go with the bad.
“I love Chipotle and Lisa McDowell approves it,” he said. “She says go to Chipotle as much as you want. They have good meat, good rice, it’s all good stuff. It’s a good place on the road.
“But I still get my Dairy Queen fix every now and again, just a medium vanilla cone because if it’s a small I won’t enjoy it and if it’s too big I might feel guilty.”