Every Golden Knight player has a different game day routine, but one tradition is cherished above all else. Don’t get in the way of anyone’s pregame nap.
Power naps are less a perk than a part of the job when it comes to professional hockey, “Our body is our place of work, so you cannot get to the game and be tired,” center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare says.
Players treat an afternoon snooze more as a requirement than a desire. These are athletes who have a practice in the morning—10:30 a.m. on game days for Vegas—and are then expected to perform at peak intensity for up to three hours, typically starting at 7 p.m.
That’s a long day, especially considering it starts with meetings and workouts before players ever hit the ice. “This is what we do, so we have to make sure that we get the amount of minutes back so our bodies are ready to do the job,” Bellemare says.
Forward Alex Tuch has a fairly rigid routine. He wakes up at 8:30 a.m. and heads to City National Arena to eat breakfast before the team’s 9:30 meeting. He then gets a stretch in and hits the ice for at least 30 minutes before showering, getting dressed and heading home to relax in anticipation of a nap from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m..
“Always,” Tuch says of his nap. “I try to. There’s probably one game this year I haven’t.”
He also has his post-nap strategy down to a science. Tuch arrives at T-Mobile Arena by 4:15 p.m., makes a snack and prepares multiple water bottles with different drinks before attending one final meeting at 5:30.
Players say the nap helps mentally as much as physically. The grind of a hockey season wears on everyone, and the onus is increased during road trips, when games might take place at different times or in different time zones. A nap can standardize the body’s start time for a game.
“It kind of resets you, so it’s a new day,” forward William Carrier says. “It gets you to the same point every time, and when the game starts you’re at the exact same point as the game before and the game after.”
The ritual extends to the coaches, too. Most of them were players once, to they’re already indoctrinated in the napping tradition.
Even for them, getting some shut-eye is essential. “Our sleeping schedule is a lot different than most people, so you get your rest when you can get it,” coach Gerard Gallant says. “I know I feel a lot better when I have my pregame nap.”