Ryan Suter easily led the NHL in average time on ice this season, at 29:04 per game. Devan Dubnyk played in 39 straight pressurized games down the stretch this season, the longest streak by a goalie since 2008.
Tonight, as the Wild begins a second-round playoff series in Chicago, the team will count on Suter and Dubnyk to continue as marathon men, even though neither seems to have any interest in training like a marathoner.
Athletes have never been so well-trained or nutritionally fortified, yet athletes have never before proved so brittle.
Toward the end of his career, Vikings Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter employed a baker’s dozen of personal employees to squeeze every ounce of sweat out of his body and career. He employed a chiropractor, a masseuse, a personal chef, a nutritionist, a few personal trainers and probably an exorcist, just in case.
It’s time for the Wild’s Iron Man goalie and Iron Lung defenseman to share their secrets with the world.
How do they stay on the ice?
“I drink whole milk,” Suter said.
“I get my rest,” Dubnyk said.
Suter’s wife buys organic milk for the kids, and monitors their diets. Then her husband, the elite athlete, slugs down nonorganic, whole-fat, bovine milk and grabs a cookie.
Dubnyk admits he might have taken in a little extra water during his streak. Otherwise, he tried to get his sleep, get treatment from the training staff on any off day he required it, and … “that’s about it.”
“I’m fine with the organic stuff, that’s great, and that’s what my wife buys my kids,” Suter said. “My theory is, I was raised drinking regular milk, why can’t they?
“My wife gives me a hard time. In the summertime I work out and then I just go outside. She’s like, `You should have a protein shake or do something.’ If I feel hungry I’ll go eat something. If I feel like having a cookie before bed, I’ll have a cookie.”
Dubnyk said he has proof he does nothing special to hone his physique. “This is a goalie body,” he said, laughing. “I don’t think anybody’s going to look at me and buy my recipe book. I’ll just keep this shirt on and leave it at that.”
Suter is remarkably well-conditioned even by the high standards of NHL players, but he, like Dubnyk, looks remarkably average in a workout shirt. The only hint that Suter might be an elite athlete is the way his forearm extensors jut out.
Dubnyk is tall and lean. He looks more like a backup power forward for a mediocre college basketball team than an NHL awards finalist.
Suter’s teammates say his effortless skating style allows him to conserve energy. Wild coach Mike Yeo and several players attribute the stamina of Suter and Dubnyk to their attitudes and intelligence.
Suter, they said, is so adept at anticipating plays that he can move the puck in time to avoid the kind of big hits that wear down defensemen.
Dubnyk, they said, benefits from his loose, funny personality, as well as the Wild’s goalie-friendly defensive system. “Part of it is his preparation,” Yeo said. “Part of it is, stress can be as tiring as anything else. I think we’ve all seen from his personality that he’s a guy, when a game is over he’s able to let go.”
Suter not only eschews modern sports nutrition, he thinks he’s more resilient because of that approach.
“I mean, I don’t eat junk food, but I also don’t have the extra protein shakes here and there,” Suter said. “Some of these guys get so mentally structured with eating every two hours and eating exactly the right thing and if something happens and they get thrown off that schedule, then they’re screwed.
“I try not to fall into that. If I find myself falling into a pattern, I’ll try to do the opposite, just so I don’t get caught up in a superstition. If I feel good doing this, why change?”
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at souhanunfiltered.com. On