I am very excited to be a Garden of Life sponsored athlete because nutrition is responsible for turning my career around. I am proud of this opportunity and also to share my story with you. To me, nutrition is the most important thing if you wish to have a long and healthy life, are recovering from an illness or injury, or (as in my case) are trying to get the best out of your body on a daily basis.
When I turned pro, I was assigned to the Adirondack Phantoms, the AHL (American Hockey League) minor league team under the Philadelphia Flyers. I was fresh out of juniors where I was considered one of the best defensemen in the league. I thought it would be an easy transition and that the NHL (National Hockey League) would be just as easy for me.
The Flyers offer their players a number of resources on a daily basis: sleep doctors, athletic trainers, sport psychologists and nutritionists. Like most young players, I believed that I didn't need anyone’s help to make it to the next level. I kept hearing the same advice such as ''you have to be a pro at all time'' and ''if you want to make it to the NHL, you have to take care of your body.” At the time, none of this made any sense to me, but soon enough I found out this advice was very true and the resources were there for a reason.
At the end of my second pro season (2010-2011), I was sent down from the AHL to the ECHL, (East Coast Hockey League) a league below the AHL. That was definitely not how I saw my future as a professional player, and I don't think anyone plans to take a step backwards from their goal. That's when I had a talk with myself and decided that something needed to change if I wanted to get back on track to pursuing my NHL career.
Over the years I always thought I was a hard worker, but the Flyers’ staff had told me several times that I needed to work more on my physical training, I started speaking with my Phantoms trainer, Ryan Podell, (now the Flyers physical trainer), with Riley Cote, a former Flyers player and current Phantoms assistant coach, and friend and former teammate Mike Testwuide about what I could do to improve my training. They were always telling the team about the importance of proper nutrition, and how raw fruits and veggies are so important to include in your diet. They gave me some advice and guidelines to follow to start changing my eating habits. Mike was already a fan of the Garden Of Life product line and helped me get started using Raw Meal and Raw Protein, which I found at Four Seasons health food store in Saratoga.
Right away, I started to see a difference in my energy level and my performance in the gym during the 2011 season. I was using Raw Meal while trying to eliminate bread, pasta and refined sugar from my diet. Once I felt the charge of energy after these dietary changes, I started reading and researching online about things like super foods, and antioxidants. I also switched my diet from someone who just ate whatever was on my plate to a mostly gluten-free, dairy-free, organic diet. My entire body changed! I became leaner, stronger and faster, all because the food I was putting in my body fueled me to trainer harder with an amazing energy level. Most of the things that were keeping me away from the NHL were eventually resolved as a result of this new lifestyle. It paid off in the 2011-2012 season when I was called up to the NHL by the Flyers and finally had an opportunity to show everyone what I could do!
Hockey is a very aggressive sport, and unfortunately I was sidelined with a concussion for the latter part of the season. I am working and training for next season with the Flyers and I am very confident I’ll have a great season in the NHL. It’s all because I am fueling my body the right way every day by eating a ton of veggies, some lean meats, and supplementing with Garden Of Life products, including Raw Meal, Raw Protein, and Perfect Food Raw!
Favorite product: Raw Meal Replacement
Favorite flavor: Vanilla Spiced Chai
Favorite veggie: Spinach
Favorite fruit: Blueberry