Tom Mulligan, Head Athletic Trainer for Tampa Bay Lightning, provides insight into the diet of hockey players.
Tom Mulligan is the athletic trainer with Team USA. Originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts, the 33-year-old is the head athletic trainer with the Tampa Bay Lightning and has worked with them since 2002. This is his first tournament working with Team USA.
optimyz: What sort of food are the players eating?
Mulligan: Everything has to be approved through the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation). For the most part, everybody’s on the same page as far as what they can and cannot have. Pre-game meals, we’ll provide pasta, chicken. Post-game, we’re trying to replenish their protein. So we’ll have chicken, a steak meal.
optimyz: So there’s a little variation amongst the teams?
Mulligan: Yeah, I mean obviously in the type of pasta you choose or the type of chicken dish. For breakfast, we’ll have some eggs, some yogurt, and some cereal.
optimyz: What about snacks throughout the day?
Mulligan: What we’ll set-up before a game is some bagels, some yogurt. They also have nutrition bars. Guys will snack on those. Fruit is always available, bananas for potassium, and to prevent dehydration.
optimyz: What kind of drinks are they typically having with meals?
Mulligan: We push water and fruit juice. We try and steer them away from the sodas or pop, as they call it up here (chuckling). On an off-day they can pretty much do as they choose, but we try and steer them towards the water.
optimyz: On the off-days, players are able to sample some local cuisine then?
optimyz: But when it comes to game day, they have to stick to the program?
Mulligan: All the guys we have here are NHL players, they’re used to the routine and most of the NHL teams have the same sort of set-up that we’re using, so that’s their normal routine and are comfortable with that and their bodies respond well to that.
optimyz: And the emphasis on nutrition, has that changed over the years?
Mulligan: I think definitely it has. The players have become so skilled and advanced. Any advantage you can get to help you recover, especially coming up here where some teams may be playing some back-to-back games. The quicker you recover, the better you’re going to be the next day.
optimyz: And what are some of the better foods that you’d want to see the players eat every day?
Mulligan: I think you want to focus on getting some good carbs in prior to the games, earlier that day even, possibly the night before. And then post-game, you want to focus on trying and replenishing your protein.