NHL Head Athletic Trainer shares the solution to hydration challenges even in the cold of the hockey rink

NHL Head Athletic Trainer shares the solution to hydration challenges even in the cold of the hockey rink

Like any hockey player growing up in the Detroit area, Piet Van Zant dreamed of playing with the National Hockey League (NHL) Detroit Red Wings. An injury that sidelined him in high school put him on a career path that led to the Red Wings organization more 20 years ago. He’s now the Head Athletic Trainer.Piet Van Zant

“You want to play for your hometown team,” says Van Zant, who was introduced to athletic training after his injury. “Once I started in the program, it was definitely something I knew I wanted to do as a career.”

After he graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training in 1993, Van Zant went to work for the minor league Adirondack Red Wings. After six years, he was added to the Detroit Red Wings medical staff as an Assistant Trainer, and he became Head Trainer in 2002. He earned a master’s degree in Performance Enhancement in 2004 just as emphasis on sports training and nutrition was accelerating.

Boosting health, safety, and performance

“Over the years, it’s definitely become a more evidence-based practice for athletic trainers and anybody in the medical field when it comes to pro sports and pro athletes,” Van Zant says. “You need to have research and proof that your treatments and your therapies you’re doing with athletes actually work.”

Red Wings HockeySince Van Zant joined the Red Wings, the organization has added a nutritionist, strength coach, a physical therapist, and two massage therapists, with access for players to acupuncture, chiropractic, and other strategies to boost their health, safety, and performance. The Nutritionist introduced him to The Right Stuff a few years ago.

Hydration is imperative in sports like hockey

“It started with a couple of problem players, and it’s evolved to a preventive strategy for multiple players,” he says. “Hydration is imperative in sports like hockey where you’re wearing equipment that weighs you down, that increases the heat. Your body’s not able to dissipate that heat as well as if you were in shorts and a t-shirt.”

Despite an environment cold enough to keep the rink frozen, Hi Res Hockey Goalie croppedthe intensity and length of hockey events – some 3½ hours – in heavy equipment can cause sweating that disrupts sodium and electrolyte balance. In one extreme case, Van Zant say, a goalie lost 15 pounds in a single game.

Just plain water over that time frame isn’t going to cut it,” he says. “It is crucial to maintain that balance. The Right Stuff helps us do that.”

Pro Hockey Coach and Firefighter Preaches the Importance of Hydration

Pro Hockey Coach and Firefighter Preaches the Importance of Hydration

Kevin Ziegler Kevin Zieglerknows fire and ice. Ziegler is a member of Minnesota Task Force 1 in the Minneapolis Fire Department, which he joined 14 years ago. He is also a Strength and Conditioning Coach for hockey players, a childhood interest that led to his role as Global Director of Sports Performance for Octagon Hockey.

“I was into hockey as a young kid,” Ziegler says. “I figured out that hockey wasn’t going to pay for my education but football was.” He attended Iowa State University on a football scholarship, earning a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Physiology and a master’s degree in Physiology. He also holds certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Ziegler’s hockey career includes work as Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League and consulting with other teams, including the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers. In 1990, he opened his pioneer sports training center exclusively for enhancing academic performance. Clients have won World Championships, World Series Championships, National Championships, and the Stanley Cup.

Although he has received offers to coach NHL teams, Ziegler remained committed to his native Minnesota and his firefighter work for Minneapolis. He was directing strength and conditioning for a hockey team of 16- to 20-year-olds when a nutritionist friend introduced him to The Right Stuff®. kiwi-packet-group2    Now he recommends it to hockey players and keeps it on hand for his firefighting job.

Hydration for Athletes

“We had talked about hydration for athletes. It’s one of the biggest issues,” he says, citing a Yale University study of hockey players that confirmed that those in pads sweat more than those without pads. “It’s something that’s really well known in hockey. Hydration is hugely important, especially for goaltenders.”

Our recovery for our team was much faster for the players that were using The Right Stuff than for the players that weren’t using it.

The Right Stuff is the solution. “Our recovery for our team is much faster for the players that use it than for the players that weren’t using it,” he says.” For the goaltenders, it gave them an advantage. They recovered quicker. They didn’t cramp. It made our travel that much better because our players weren’t getting dehydrated. Once you get dehydrated, it’s very hard to catch up. I found it was very beneficial. From there I started using it in our pro camps in Octagon. I’ve used it with our diabetic athletes to keep them hydrated. We’ve had great results.” [Editor Note: The Right Stuff does not contain any sugars or carbohydrates]

In addition to the benefits during workouts and games, Ziegler notes, The Right Stuff eases the dehydration of air travel that contributes to jet lag for teams flying cross-country.

“I think it would be a great product where you’re put in a situation where you can get dehydrated – flying or playing at altitude,” he says. “For an athlete who has to play the next day, jet lag is something you want to avoid.”

Ziegler drinks The Right Stuff for his own hydration at work. “I use it personally in the firefighting,” he says. “Especially if it’s a hot day, I keep The Right Stuff with me when I’m on the fire truck.”