May 3, 2011, 7:01 PM EST
Sure, he slowed down a bit in the second half of the season, but Steven Stamkos made a compelling argument that he’ll rank among the NHL’s elite for years. Apparently he already has an all-world physique, though.
Men’s Health magazine tabbed Stamkos in its list of the 25 fittest men in the world, an honor that seems to leave Stamkos a bit sheepish, according to a piece by Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star. Other athletes who made the list were superhuman (and divisive) NBA star LeBron James and soccer lust magnet David Beckham.
Stamkos might want to give Gary Roberts at least some of the credit, as the former NHL player’s fitness camp helped Stamkos and several other players jump a level or two in fitness.
Hockey players joining the highest ranks of athletes from a fitness perspective reflects the sports-wide changes in training, but it’s also probably a testament to the post-lockout pace. While there are still a decent amount of “slower” players in the NHL, former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Dave Andreychuk talked to McGran about just how far training has come since he began playing.
“Let’s just say we had ashtrays in our stalls,” said retired star Dave Andreychuk, recalling his first year in the NHL — 1982 — with the Buffalo Sabres. “There was not a lot of hard bodies in that room.”
Andreychuk said few players would even go on a bike after a game, now a routine across the league. If one did, he might even be chided by a teammate for holding everybody up.
“In the early ’80s, guys got into shape in camp. Now it’s a full-time job. The game has definitely changed that way,” added Andreychuk. “These guys have their own nutritionists, their own trainers. I think you’re going to see players last longer because of their physical condition.”
And in the same Toronto Star story, Roberts said that living a responsible lifestyle is one of the few remaining “edges” a player can earn in the devilishly tough NHL.
“That’s the only edge left — the lifestyle choices you make that give you a chance for longevity in the NHL. You can fool people for a few years, till maybe 27, but when you’re closing in on 30 and you’re not making the right lifestyle choices, the game is just too fast.”
Barring injuries, Stamkos should have a lot of hockey ahead of him – and a huge raise next season since he’s a pending restricted free agent – but if he keeps up this commitment level, he could be worth every penny. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if he eventually earns much bigger honors than anything that Men’s Health could hand out.
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