The VICTORIOUS HOCKEY COMPANY’s Weekly Newsletter: ‘I NEED HIM’:
MEET THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES TRAINER WHO HAS HELPED NATHAN MACKINNON TAKE OFF
Okay, so last week was crazy.
...This week is crazy.
I spent a sizable amount of time speaking with teams that are in need of players. If you are an ‘01 - ‘03 Forward or Defenseman and not yet with a team
AND HAVE BEEN VACCINATED
please set up a conference call with us at the link below (please include the player’s name and birth year in the “Appointment Notes” section):
We have Canadian Junior A teams (hence the vaccination stipulation) that might be interested in acquiring your services. Please note, this does not apply to everyone. You will need to be a solid player, capable of skating at that level.
In addition, we have had several other teams, in multiple leagues, at all levels that have also reached out and asked for our assistance in helping them find players (regardless of vaccination status) to round out their rosters.
As main camps end and tryouts begin you may find yourself without a destination or a plan to get there. It’s okay. If you want to play we will find you a team that fits.
If this sounds like you or your son, I encourage you to set up a conference call with us so we can discuss your situation and begin sorting things out. October is coming and I don’t want capable players without a place to place or playing below their developmental needs.
On that note, it's time to kick your dietary and conditioning plans into play. As tryouts open, you will need to get yourself into prime condition. Training camp IS NOT the place you want to show up, out of shape. It takes time, effort and planning.
After my shoulder surgery, I am ashamed to say that I fell woefully out of shape. I suppose that it is understandable but that does not make the path back any easier. Last week, I forced myself to get back at it and it has been rough. Simply the act of getting your mind and body onboard takes work.
And if any of you are anything like me, “too much - too soon” is my biggest struggle. I am still in pain from surgery. So, coordinating with my physical therapist and my trainer was essential. We know it takes effort. That’s the easy part. Like I wrote, it also takes time and planning.
That is why you need to be figuring out what you need to do to get yourself ready prior to showing up at training camp. Starting to run, swim, bike (whatever) five days prior is way too late. You need to get on it now!
Coach Littler, sent me this article on Nathan MacKinnon and the lengths he goes to in preparation for play. He’s a pretty okay player. Seriously though, I felt like this was a good read as the Fall and training camp quickly approaches.
‘I NEED HIM’:
MEET THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES TRAINER WHO HAS HELPED NATHAN MACKINNON TAKE OFF
By Peter Baugh Aug 11, 2021, The Athletic
Early in his professional career, Nathan MacKinnon scoffed at the idea of spending extra time and resources treating his body.
Mental fortitude, he thought, was the solution when he was banged up.
Treatment? The forward didn’t see much need for that.
“I was just stubborn,” he says. “I was an idiot.”
That’s different now. Over the past four seasons, MacKinnon has emerged as one of the most consistent stars in the NHL, in large part due to increased off-ice commitment. He’s averaged more than a point per game since 2017-2018 and has never finished below sixth in Hart Trophy voting during that stretch. His dominance has marked quite an uptick from the first four years of his Avalanche career, in which he never scored more than 63 points in a season.
“I just was sick of being average,”
the 25-year-old MacKinnon says.
“I knew I was better than a 50-, 60-point guy. So I dialed in everything:
I just tried to check all the boxes.”
Spending more time with Marcin Goszczynski checked a big one. The 39-year-old is a performance rehabilitation specialist who, through a variety of techniques, helps athletes mobilize their soft tissue muscles, recover from injuries and perform at their best. He’s worked with top athletes across multiple sports, including Penguins captain Sidney Crosby — MacKinnon’s close friend and fellow Nova Scotian — as well as five-time tennis major champion Maria Sharapova and Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse, now a six-time Olympic medalist.
MacKinnon first met Goszczynski through Crosby eight years ago and gradually worked with him more as his career progressed. Now, Goszczynski spends the NHL season in Denver, working with MacKinnon daily while the Avalanche are on homestands. They have pregame routines to get him warmed up, and Goszczynski helps him work through injuries.
“As Nate has started to get really serious and really wanted to start being the best player in the world, we started doing more and more work together,” Goszczynski says.
MacKinnon loves the way his body feels after sessions with Goszczynski, a former professional speed skater. The specialist stays in frequent contact and shares observations with Andy O’Brien, Crosby and MacKinnon’s strength and conditioning trainer, to make sure everyone is on the same page. In July, he flew from his Calgary home to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to work with MacKinnon and Crosby for a week.
During the trip, Goszczynski spent three hours a day treating MacKinnon and he also spent time observing his on-ice and dryland workouts.
“He works literally from my toes to my head, everything in between,” MacKinnon says. “He just makes sure I’m functioning well and moving efficiently and staying healthy.”
“(We do) massage stuff, there’s active release (techniques), there’s joint pumping,” Goszczynski adds. “And then sometimes it will be actual physical exercises that we incorporate, just turning the nervous system back on. So it’s a big conglomerate of those things.”
In the middle of the 2017-18 season — MacKinnon’s breakout year — he talked to Goszczynski about moving him to Denver so they could work together more frequently. But around that time, Sharapova hired Goszczynski to work with her in Los Angeles. She agreed, though, to let him travel to MacKinnon or Crosby on their off days.
He made plenty of trips to Colorado. Then, when Sharapova retired midway through the 2019-20 NHL season, Goszczynski relocated to a downtown Denver apartment on MacKinnon’s dime. He now pays Goszczynski a premium, giving him first dibs on the specialist’s services.
MacKinnon is clear that his work with Goszczynski is not a slight toward the Avalanche trainers — he says they’re great. But with more than 20 players on an NHL roster, they only have so much time, and Goszczynski’s presence allows him to have the one-on-one treatment he craves.
The center plays a powerful, physical game that lends itself to bumps and bruises. On some days, when his body is particularly banged up, he’ll spend four hours on a training table getting treatment from Goszczynski.
“I look at it as an investment in my body,” MacKinnon says.
“That’s the best thing I can invest in:
my body and mind.”
Colorado’s players know how seriously MacKinnon takes his performance. Along with increased work with Goszczynski in recent years, he has worked with a sports psychologist and incorporated a rigid diet.
Teammate Andre Burakovsky told The Athletic that MacKinnon will sometimes chirp at teammates if he sees them eating something unhealthy. Flames defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who played for the Avalanche from 2015 to 2020, recently said in a Russian interview that MacKinnon harped on desserts in the dressing room and started eating chickpea pasta rather than normal noodles.
The reason? More protein.
MacKinnon knows he’s extreme. He described himself that way when discussing his work with Goszczynski. But he sees these efforts as the necessary cost of maximizing his potential, and the increased focus coincided with his breakout.
“It speaks volumes to what it takes to be the best,” said former Avalanche teammate Colin Wilson, who also received treatment from Goszczynski during his career. “He cares that much and he’s that detailed in everything he does.”
Though MacKinnon’s arrangement with Goszczynski is distinct among NHL players, multiple NBA stars, including LeBron James and Chris Paul, have their own personal trainers. And Wilson, who retired in January after 11 NHL seasons, says he saw hockey players prioritizing treatment more as his career went on. The sport has gotten faster, and players need their bodies working at all times. That has led many NHLers to seek out Goszczynski, including Tyson Barrie, Brayden Schenn and James van Riemsdyk. He even went to the Edmonton bubble in 2020, staying until the Stanley Cup Final ended.
“I definitely want to keep him around,” MacKinnon says. “He’s a hot commodity.”
Fellow Avalanche players get treatment from Goszczynski, too, including Norris Trophy runner-up Cale Makar. On off days during the 2021 playoffs, members of the team would gather at MacKinnon’s house to eat, hang out and get treatment. Some days he’ll work more than 10 hours on Avalanche players.
And, of course, he has his specialized work with MacKinnon.
“After (playoff home) games I would go home and I’d get treatment for an hour until 1, 1:30 a.m.,” MacKinnon says. “I don’t sleep anyways right away. The adrenaline is going.”
“It makes a really big difference to be able to see someone right away in that type of environment,” adds Goszczynski. “It’s (exponentially helpful) through a whole playoff series.”
The on-ice results speak for themselves. MacKinnon’s investment in body and mind is working and he’s quick to give Goszczynski credit.
“I need him,” MacKinnon says. “I really do.”
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