Rod BrindAmour: Half Man, Mostly Machine

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written for The Broad Street Bully, a blog and podcast my friend Drew and I started based off of our mutual interest in the Philadelphia Flyers. See it on http://broadstreetbully.net.]

[ADDITIONAL AUTHOR’S NOTE: We’re probably not going to talk about Rod BrindAmour on the podcast but I think this a cool story for anybody who doesn’t know how far ahead of his time he was.  Additionally, I took the apostrophe out of his name throughout all of this article because I’m writing to appease SEO and, apparently, SEO hates punctuation.  I realize there’s an apostrophe in his name.]

Rod BrindAmour was traded to the Flyers after the 1990-1991 season and remained a Flyer until 2000.

He was a perennial assistant captain and even filled in as captain when Lindros was out of the lineup (which, with Lindros’ concussion history, seems like it was a lot of times).

While setting a Flyers franchise record of 484 consecutive games player, Brinad’Amour developed into one of the NHL’s premier shutdown centers. He was eventually rewarded for his defensive work after he left Philadelphia when he won the Selke Trophy and a Stanley Cup as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

And, more importantly, what Flyers fan who could forget the time that he scored two shorthanded goals in the same penalty kill against the Penguins?

But, over BrindAmour’s whole career, it can be argued that he is most well known for his work ethic (rivaled by still current NHLer Jarmoir Jagr) and his “Rod The Bod” moniker.

BrindAmour has often been credited as one of the first NHL players to place a major emphasis on fitness, whether it’s during the season or the offseason.

Former teammate Brett Hull said the following of BrindAmour:

For some people it’s drinking. For some, it’s listening to music. For some, it’s weightlifting.

BrindAmour’s strenuous workout regiments began early. At prep school in Saskatchewan, BrindAmour led the school to a Canadian junior hockey title, earned a scholarship to Michigan State University, and made himself the ninth overall pick in the 1988 NHL draft.

That’s when I really started lifting weights, when I was 15 … I feel more effective if I do a little extra work. My life almost revolved around it since I started training. It’s what you do, it kind of shapes your life.

BrindAmour’s focus on fitness continued through his only year at Michigan State.

Ron Mason, Michigan State’s coach when BrindAmour was there, had this to say about him:

Everybody knew he was one individual who worked hard whether he was on the ice or in the weight room … I talked to him numerous times about not overdoing it, in the weight room especially. He drove himself to perfection and would wear himself out. We wanted him to lighten it up a bit during the season.

And, if you were wondering, hockey writers at the time did think that BrindAmour was on someone sort of performance enhancing drug. His response?

That’s a joke … Nobody has ever asked me that seriously. That’s ridiculous. I’ve been tested like everybody else. In college, I was tested like everybody else.

In an article from 2006 called “Call him Rod the Bod” found on Canada.com, they quote BrindAmour as saying:

It’s all about how you take care of yourself. It’s what you do to keep in shape. You don’t need an excellent program, and you needn’t get too scientific. At the end of the day, it’s: ”Get off your ass and do something.” Everybody looks for the secret, but it’s just hard work. I’ve not found the fountain of youth, but I’m all ears if someone has.

In his later years, as he was getting older and his career was winding down, he modified his workout routines away from focusing heavily on weight training and focusing more on cardio and conditioning.

That’s what keeps you going when you come off a shift and have to be ready to go again 20 seconds later.

Peter Friesen, the Hurricanes strength and conditioning coach at the time, had a glowing review of BrindAmour’s work ethic:

In talking to trainers in various sports, I’d suggest that Rod’s fitness level and dedication would rival any athlete in any pro sport … Usually, someone’s really strong, they have great endurance or good flexibility, but not in one parcel. Rod has the whole package. I don’t see many people who have his drive and desire, day in and day out. He approaches his workout with the same tenacity, whether he’s healthy or injured … To some people, Rod is freakish, insane … But he leads by example. Teammates say: ‘If he’s playing all these minutes and still has time to work out, I should have the time, too.’

In a 2009 article from The Canadian Press, BrindAmour talks about how he’s made it as long as he has in the NHL.

It’s definitely a year-round job … I think the guys that approach it that way are the ones that last the longest … Especially with the amount of money guys make now, if you don’t treat it year-round you’re foolish.

In the 2008 offseason, while recovering from an ACL tear, BrindAmour hit the ice even stronger than before. He visited his physical therapist several times a week and started skating as much he could, even if it wasn’t in a hockey capacity

I’ll usually go twice a week for an hour by myself even … Just to Kind of keep on my edges so that when you start training camp you’re not feeling that, like most guys go through, you get the groin (soreness) and everything just feels horrible. I find if you just keep skating then you don’t have those problems.

By working so hard in the offseason, the idea was to make it easier on his body during the season.

The off-season is harder for me than any time … I go six days a week and I go pretty hard. Once camp starts, it’s actually easier.

Even though BrindAmour is now retired, he is still a part of the Carolina Hurricanes organization as a assistant, and a development, coach. He is also the coach who is in charge of player conditioning. He sits down with the players individually and helps to create a workout plan that is designed specifically for them.

He believes kids and their teams make one key mistake today: not customizing their workouts. Teams often give the same program to every player when certain kinds – say, a bruising power forward versus a slick-skating offensive defenseman – require different types of physical attributes.

Rod BrindAmour and his love for fitness set a precedence that is common place in the NHL today. With the speed of the game increasing on the ice, and the size of the players increasing every year, players have to treat hockey as a year round job. Players cannot come into training camp out of shape anymore or they risk losing their spot to another player who prepared harder and wants it more.

Players like Rod BrindAmour will always be one of a kind. His rigorous work ethic and dedication to the game, seen at the time as going above and beyond, is now the standard for NHL players.

In a 2013 article from The Hockey News, former Carolina Hurricanes teammate, Martin Gelinas, concisely summed up Rod BrindAmour:

I thought I was in pretty good shape, so I’m doing stairs. I’m getting on top of the stairs and I’m barely breathing … And then you’ve got Rod, doing the same thing with a 50-pound vest on him. That’s the kind of guy he is.

SOURCES CITED

http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/sports/story.html?id=86f92c45-d2bb-4b37-8b87-f592ce8221b4

http://www.uvm.edu/~smower/rodpage/articles/blues/stlouis102890.html

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/nhl-veterans-workouts/

http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/the-biggest-fitness-freak/

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