First we had the secret pickle juice concoction in Philadelphia - now this:
During home games, the Flyers have a special slushy machine that replenishes the sodiums lost during play and at the same time cools the core body temperature to maximize performance.
The machines, which are situated in the home locker room; spin non-stop and look like the old Ice-ee machines that used to be behind the snack counter at Woolworth's.
"We do heat rate studies and sweat rate studies just like the NFL does," Flyers' trainer Jim McCrossin said recently. "What our research has been on is electrolytes and how to get the proper amount of electrolytes back into the players. Each individual loses electrolytes at a different rate. That's why we do sweat rate studies. We want to know what electrolytes they're losing most and whatever it is, that's what we have to replace."
Which is where the slushy machine comes in. Made from a green tea extract, the slushies are designed to recharge the batteries between periods or even during the games themselves.
"Once your core temperature reaches 106 you start to die," McCrossin said. Some of our shifts we are getting up to 103 and then come back down, then go back up the next shift before coming back down and the cycle continues.
"What we want to do at intermission is cool down the core temperature as much as possible and get the sodium back in because you don't want fatigue and make sure the players are getting fluid."
The slushies, much like the pickle juice did for the Eagles several seasons ago, has worked wonders and it should be no surprise that it was Eagles' trainer Rick Burkholder who came across this method first.
Always trying to be at the forefront of maximizing athletic performance, Burkholder read about slushies being used in Australia by rugby and Aussie rules football teams.
So, in conjunction with Dr. Sandy Fowkes Godek, the director of the HEAT institute and professor of Sports Medicine at West Chester University, Burkholder brought the slushies to the Eagles locker room.
The Flyers also work with Godek doing sweat rate studies and heat rate studies - once early in the season when rinks are cooler and once again just before the playoffs when rinks are warmer - to determine what players are losing which electrolytes and when.
What the Flyers have found is that North American-born players sweat a lot more than western European-born players (Russians sweat about the same as the North Americans).
"Kimmo Timonen, who plays as much as he does, hardly sweats at all while (Brian Boucher) sweats like a mad dog," McCrossin said.
There is no hard evidence as to why that is, but the best guesstimate is based on diets over the course of a lifetime and how they are expansively different here than in Europe.
Still, Boucher has been the prize pupil, so to speak, with the slushies.
"We only have it at home and I can't remember the last time I played at home, but I do use it a lot at practice," Boucher said. "I sweat a ridiculous amount and they keep me cool and fresh."
McCrossin suggested that it has helped Boucher in other ways too. Boucher would frequently cramp up from sweating so profusely, but ever since the slushies became part of the daily routine, there's been no cramping.
"As I've gotten older I've been more conscious of staying hydrated," Boucher said. "The slushies have been great."
Boucher, when playing at the Wells Fargo Center will down two slushies per period in lieu of Gatorade. During practice, he averages four slushies in an hour.
Other players are buying into the recovery power of slushies and many are frequently seen downing a cup or two post game.
"No other teams in hockey use the slushies, so don't share our secret until we win the Cup," McCrossin said.
Um... Too late.
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