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Steven Stamkos among 25 players who endured Gary Roberts' off-season training regimen

Sep 28, 2010, 2:30 PM EDT

stamkosyear3.jpgProfessional athletes are always looking for an “edge.” In hockey, it could be adjusting the way you attack on the forecheck or the curve on your stick.

Yet, with a lot of people in sports, one thing goes unnoticed: a player’s diet. (Braces for a round of Kyle Wellwood/Martin Brodeur jokes.)

TSN’s James Duthie wrote an interesting piece regarding Gary Roberts’ boot camp in which the former power forward put 25 players including Steven Stamkos, Cody Hodgson, Steve Downie and Mike del Zotto. The workout routine made sense for Roberts – a guy who received the Chuck Norris joke treatment during his brief time with the Pittsburgh Penguins – but the importance of wise eating was the most “unique” lesson.

Roberts then worked with the chefs at Nature’s Emporium to design a full summer menu for his troops. Every meal they ate had to meet his approval.

“It was a big adjustment,” says Stamkos. “The first two weeks we started the program, your body is not just used to that type of food. You are used to laying on the mayo, the ranch dressing. It was depressing at first. But once my body got used to it, it was fine. The food was great. I didn’t know what some of it was, but it was unbelievable. There was this mango parfait I still crave.”

Michael Del Zotto, a good Italian boy used to his lasagna and chicken parm, struggled the most.

“Michael was the pickiest,” says Roberts with a chuckle. “He’d text me and say, ‘Holy Crap what was that green stuff in my sandwich?’. I said, ‘Those are sprouts Michael.’ One time I got him excited telling him he was getting spaghetti. I didn’t tell him it was actually zucchini, shredded like spaghetti.”

Downie loved the food so much, he sent his girlfriend to Nature’s Emporium for a two-day training course with the chefs. He wanted her to be able to make it all season in Tampa.

garyroberts.jpgThe results were tangible, too. Colorado Avalanche prospect Cameron Gaunce lost 15 lbs., cut his body fat down to six percent and won the team’s fitness test this summer. Stamkos turned heads after Roberts’ regimen while Hodgson helped himself in his recovery thanks to some of the habits he picked up from Roberts.

Of course, you have to wonder if the young players will slip when they’re not under Roberts’ watchful stink eye (a good example of that death stare can be found in the photo to the right).

For now, class is dismissed. But careful boys, Big Brother is always watching.

“The other night I was playing in Edmonton and you guys showed me on TSN wolfing down popcorn,” says Stamkos. “Right away I get a text from Robs: ‘Stammer, lay off the popcorn!’ I told him, ‘Don’t worry, it’s organic.”

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