Wings bring big appetites to The Joe
Players burn up to 2,500 calories every game and practice
DETROIT – There isn’t much that Kyle Quincey doesn’t like about food. From the multitude of aromas and the satisfying feelings he receives from it, the Red Wings’ defenseman savors cuisine with a discriminating palate.
“I enjoy food the most, just the taste of food, period,” admitted Quincey. “There really isn’t anything that I don’t like. I just enjoy it, I mean, when Carlo (Colaiacovo) and I go to dinner he eats three plates before I eat one. I just take my time.”
Quincey’s love affair with food isn’t without a purpose, for he and his Red Wings’ teammates can burn between 1,800 and 2,500 calories per game. Excessive body fat isn’t an issue in the NHL, so food is needed to fuel players after they’ve skated up and down the ice at top speed.
It’s easy to see why they have such heightened post-practice and post-game appetites – they’re hungry.
Still, most fans attribute the Wings’ remarkable endurance merely to the superior athleticism of the players. But no matter how talented an athlete may be, it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes training, preparation, and nutritional awareness for a grueling schedule and lengthy Stanley Cup playoff run.
“These guys can put away a big amount of food,” said John Borso, executive chef for Olympia Entertainment at Joe Louis Arena. For years, Borso and his 12-member kitchen staff has prepared and served meals every day to the Wings’ players, coaches and staff. And not just any food.
From pre-practice omelette stations to post-game grilled chicken breasts, Borso’s team painstakingly works with team trainers and a nutritionist to ensure that the players have enough proper energy to put out their maximum effort every game.
On game days, the JLA chefs prepare breakfast, lunch and post-game dinner for 30 players, coaches, trainers and equipment staff. While practice days are a little less hectic with only breakfast and lunch on the menu, it’s still a fine balance for the kitchen staff that must meet nutritional standards while satisfying multiple appetencies.
“It can get a little busy just with 30 different people and trying to get something that everybody likes,” Borso said. “But there are always the staples, like fruits, berries and nuts – a lot of high-protein, low fat foods.”
The chefs’ work isn’t lost on the players, who greatly appreciate the variety of meals, from poached mussels to roasted sweet potatoes, as well as the timeliness that they’re served.
“The chefs have done an amazing job preparing food for us after every skate,” defenseman Jakub Kindl said. “Especially when we have a late game, say the game goes to overtime, you’re looking for a place to eat, and there’s nothing open at 11 o’clock. It’s nice to have the meals available to us right after the games, too.”
The Red Wings are among a small handful of NHL teams that provide regular daily meals for their players. And just like their own airplane makes travel to road games easier, access to prepared meals also removes another concern for players and coaches.
“In L.A. we had cereal and that’s it,” said Quincey, who played for the Kings (2008-09) and Avalanche (2009-12). “In Colorado we had nothing, so after practice we would all go to Quiznos. We didn’t have a nutritionist, either.
“They tell us to always get something into you no later than 30-minutes after, so it’s pretty tough to do when you’re going to a restaurant.”
The JLA culinary team removes the wait time for the players, though it wasn’t always so complicated, Borso said.
“It used to be that on practice days we would feed them, and they’ve really never requested a lot of stuff. It was what we had,” he said. “But now with the nutritionist, they want to start doing more whole grains and more power foods, more super foods with more greens, eating the color of the rainbow with a lot of color in the food.”
The goal, Borso said, is to emphasize whole, unprocessed foods that help players meet their daily caloric and nutrient requirements. And that’s where having a nutritionist working with the chefs and training staff has been beneficial.
“I’m a bigger guy and my weight can fluctuate,” said the 6-foot-2 Quincey, who weighs 207-pounds. “Back in the day, we didn’t have a nutritionist for hockey, and guys didn’t really know what to eat, when to eat. So I’m having a great time just learning about it and we’ll be better players because of it.”