This week, James Duthie begins a new feature on TSN.ca. He'll be talking hockey (and other things) with the biggest stars and newsmakers in the game. This week features Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, who is coming off a 51-goal, Rocket Richard Trophy-sharing season. Stamkos was one of 25 players who spent the entire summer training under former NHL star, and diet guru, Gary Roberts (see James' column: The School of Robs).
James Duthie: They told me you just finished lunch. So after a summer with Gary Roberts, I'm guessing it was quinoa-broccoli-hemp seed sandwich on sprouted-grain bread?
Steven Stamkos: (Laughs) They didn't quite have that at the Earls we went to. I went for a little chicken sandwich and a salad. It's tough sticking to that diet during the season, especially on the road. You are burning so many calories for games, you can afford to thrown on some more carbs. Robs still gets on me though. The other night I didn't dress in Edmonton and you guys showed me on TSN wolfing down popcorn. Right away I get a text from Robs: "Stammer, lay off the popcorn!" I told him, "Don't worry, it's organic."
JD: You had all your meals carefully planned by Roberts. No fast food. No refined sugar. How hard is that for a 20 year-old kid on summer vacation?
SS: It was a big adjustment. 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.
JD: Did you cheat? C'mon, you must have snuck a slice of pizza when Gary wasn't around.
SS: I had McDonald's. Once. I'm a sucker for a Big Mac. It was near the end of the summer and I figured I'd reward myself. But I set my all-time personal record by far of least Big Macs in a summer.
JD: Wow. Never knew Elias kept those stats. So has all this intense training and diet discipline worked? Can you feel it?
SS: Definitely. We had our fitness testing and I did pretty well. You can feel your legs stronger, you can feel your core stronger. I can feel it in my stride and speed, and that's a big part of my game. I definitely feel a lot stronger and faster out there.
JD: When you have a season like last year, what exactly do feel you need to improve on? What weren't you good at?
SS: I want to get stronger and quicker on face-offs, and battles in the corners. I'm still young, battling against men out there. Plus, a lot of just maintaining what you've gained in terms of explosiveness, speed and strength.
JD: When (your former Tampa coach) Barry Melrose said he wasn't sure you would ever be a goal-scorer in the NHL, did that motivate you?
SS: It definitely added fuel to the fire. But I tried not to pay too much attention to it.
JD: Have you ever spoken with him since?
JD: How many of your 50 goals did you score from that same spot in the left slot? My rough count was 49.
SS: (Laughs) I had a few people throw different numbers at me for that. I'd guess maybe 15 or 20.
JD: Do you think teams will now be game-planning to not let you have chances from there?
SS: I would assume so, but with our new power-play, if they take me away, it will leave so many other options, it will be tough.
JD: How many Tissot watches do you have? (Stamkos is the poster-boy for Tissot.)
SS: Maybe three or four. There's a new one coming out soon, it looks pretty sweet. Looking forward to getting that one on.
JD: Do you get more free stuff when you're a 50-goal guy?
SS: A little bit, ya. You definitely get invited to more golf tournaments. I love golf, and I got a lot of free rounds this summer, so I definitely took advantage of that.
JD: Best thing about playing in Tampa?
SS: The weather. Though that Bermuda grass has been an adjustment for my golf game the last couple of weeks.
JD: My heart bleeds. Worst thing about playing in Tampa?
SS: Sometimes I do miss that hockey atmosphere, when it starts to get cold, and the snow falls. Being a Canadian boy, I do miss that a bit.
JD: Do you have a specific goal this year?
SS: Make the playoffs. That is all that matters. And I'm going to do everything I can to get us there.
James Duthie's new book of columns, "The Day I Almost Killed Two Gretzkys (And other off-the-wall stories about sports...and life)", is now available. You can order your copy here in the TSN Shop: