Over the past few years, we’ve been peppered with stories about how unique or straight up loony athletes can get about their bodies and diets. Even when we were kids, the story of Walter Payton having a hill built in his backyard that he could spend hours running up on his hands in the snow (note: he may have actually done this) was rampant. From LeBron’s 45-minute pregame routine to whatever grift Tom Brady is selling at the moment, or Novak Djokovic’s trainer claiming to be able to change water through thought, we’ve seen everything from the strenuous and intricate to the beyond galaxy-brained. As we know more and more about training and nutrition, it can be harder to decipher what’s just new age and what is just being out where the buses don’t run.
Nathan MacKinnon is decidedly on one side of the line. I can’t do it justice, so we’ll just link the whole thing here. It’s from a Russian interview with Nikita Zadorov, MacK’s former teammate in Colorado:
So by some rough calculation, MacKinnon spends half a million or more per year on just three experts, though we have no idea exactly what kind of snake oil they’re selling or if they’re genuine experts. Could be anything. And if he only wants chickpea pasta, what the fuck does he need a chef for?
It’s the stripping of the entire training facility and dressing room of any foods or drinks he doesn’t consider to be in line with his vision that you have to wonder about. First off, not everyone’s body composition is the same. While peanut butter cups are bad for everyone (while also being so, so good), not everyone needs or wants a chickpea pasta diet. And that sounds boring as fuck.
MacKinnon’s demeanor, at least the one described here by Zadorov, is of someone who learned all the wrong lessons about “The Last Dance.” Yes, Michael Jordan was a legendary asshole in practice at times. Which didn’t really work until they got a coach in Phil Jackson who could balance MJ’s psychotic streak with the rest of the team. Jordan also could clearly let loose at times, which at least proved to teammates he was capable of being human on the odd occasion. MacKinnon is more likely to build drones to follow his teammates to restaurants than show a human side.
Demanding attention to detail at practice is one thing. Screaming at recent call-ups simply because you can is being a bully. Does that really help anyone get better? MacKinnon is best buds with Sidney Crosby, and Crosby certainly sets a high bar for his teammates, but you never heard of anything like this. And he’s got three rings. Jonathan Toews is known for basically saying nothing, and he also has three rings. Gretzky was hungover half the time. As MacKinnon pointed out himself just a few weeks back, he hasn’t won shit.
The idea that whoever screams the loudest wants it the most is an attitude we’ve mostly left behind, and for good reason. It’s not coaching or boosting. It’s showing off, if anything. It’s empty theater. Maybe Zadorov liked it, but you can bet there’s a fair few of MacKinnon’s teammates who don’t.
This is also why it’s generally thought, and basically proven, that great players don’t make for the best coaches. Every pass being inch-perfect is what makes MacKinnon MacKinnon, but not everyone can do that, even at the NHL level in practice. So airing out some 20-year-old just off the bus from Loveland isn’t suddenly going to make him produce like MacKinnon. He’d be more likely to shit himself.
But hey, it makes for entertaining reading for the rest of us. Because we don’t have to go through it. I’m gonna go finish off the bag of mini Kit Kats that I bought yesterday.