Photo: Courtesy of David Kottler (Washington Post)

Partly it’s superstition, and partly it’s because, as they say, he likes what he likes, Alex Ovechkin eats the exact same thing a few hours before every Capitals home game, and he’s been eating it since his rookie year. Athletes really are different from the rest of us.

It’s chicken parmesan, with pasta, mushrooms, bread, and four different sauces, and it is, as Brooks Orpik said, “the kind of thing you want to take a five-hour nap after eating.” It’s from an Italian chain, Mamma Lucia’s, but the restaurant’s has become, at least at the Caps’ practice rink, the name of the dish itself. Orpik:

We have a chef here who prepares our pregame meals. Ovi always orders the same thing — Mama Luccia, which is this pasta dish that’s like chicken parm with noodles, bread, cheese, the kind of thing you want to take a five-hour nap after eating. He makes a big display of it too. There’s no shame. It’ll be eleven in the morning, way before anyone is really thinking about eating lunch, and Ovi will walk into the dining area yelling, “Mama Luccia! Mama Luccia!” I don’t know. It’s weird, but it seems normal now.

ESPN first revealed Ovechkin’s tradition to the world last fall, and noted that hockey has changed a lot since Ovechkin’s 2005 debut. Players pay attention to nutrition now, and have the team chef make them healthy meals. Not Ovi.

And now, the Washington Post has the first photos of Ovechkin’s takeout order.

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It looks good but the idea of eating it 533 times, plus playoffs, makes me want to die.

Pro athletes’ food intake is absurd in general, but Ovechkin, now 32, is right around that age where having a big meal can fuck up your entire day. I guess his diet is a testament to how hard he works that he can stay upright, let alone be playing some of the best hockey of his career. It’s also maybe why he tends to get a little rotund every offseason.

[Washington Post]