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Former Avalanche reveals intense details about being teammates with Nathan MacKinnon

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Nathan MacKinnon

If you’ve seen The Last Dance docu-series, you know the kind of athlete and teammate Michael Jordan was behind closed doors. He was the greatest to ever do it, and he demanded the best of his teammates.

Former Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov came out recently and revealed some pretty intense MJ-like details about his old teammate, Avs superstar Nathan MacKinnon.

“Nate is like MJ. I don’t want to make a direct comparison, but his way of thinking is very similar to MJ,” Zadorov said in a recent interview with a Russian publication. “He can be a jerk to his teammates. You need to accept that and it would improve you as a hockey player as a result.

“If you can’t accept it, well, you’re off the team.”

The comparison to Michael Jordan, who likely leads the way among the pantheon of all-time greats, isn’t necessarily a new one for MacKinnon. In fact, when The Last Dance made its debut last year, there were some on Avs Twitter who were quick to draw that comparison. And I can tell you, as a member of the media, and as someone who’s been behind the closed doors of the Avs dressing room, I can confirm—without revealing too much detail—that Nathan MacKinnon is a very intense, very passionate guy. And you could probably make that assumption yourself, too.

This is further highlighted by Zadorov, who reveals a bit more of what it’s like playing alongside MacKinnon.

“If you miss a pass in practice, he would skate over and literally scream at you,” he told the Russian reporter. “If the puck ends up in his skates—not even his skates—if it misses his stick by a tiny bit, like 15 centimeters in front of the blade of his stick, he doesn’t move his stick to catch the puck. He stops everything, turns around and slaps the puck back at you. He is not going to try and catch any puck he doesn’t like during practice—just to show you that you made a shitty pass.”

And it’s not just on the ice where MacKinnon demands the best. He’s like that off the ice, too, says Zadorov, who revealed that MacKinnon pays a dietician and a personal chef $50,000 and $100,000 a year, respectively, to make sure he’s keeping his body right. He also pays a “live-in doctor/physiotherapist” $1,000 each day, while also renting him out his very own apartment.

Zadorov says MacKinnon doesn’t indulge in libations either, and only drinks water. Two years ago, MacKinnon apparently got rid of all soda and desserts from the dressing room, and kiboshed “white sauce” and replaced regular pasta with chickpea pasta, because it’s higher in protein.

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“He says, ‘Guys, if you want to eat that crap, you have the offseason for that. When you come here there will be none of that because we’re winning the Cup,” Zadorov says in the interview.

Michael Jordan wanted to win and he wanted to win bad. Nathan MacKinnon clearly wants to win, and he wants to win bad. MJ was the greatest player in the world and capital-D demanded his teammates play on his level. It’s clear MacKinnon demands a similar workload from his teammates. In that respect, maybe it is fair to loosely compare NM with MJ.

MacKinnon doesn’t want to be the best. He wants his team to be the best. This is something Zadorov wanted to make clear in this interview.

“He made pros out of the entire Colorado team,” Zadorov said. “That’s one of the reasons that Colorado got such an improvement in performance over the last couple of years.” Adding later, “He is a guy that demands everyone leaves everything out there, to maximize their abilities.

“He is always the hardest working guy. He comes out 30 minutes before practice, constantly working on his hands,” adds Zadorov. “Young guys see that he’s the best player in the NHL, and he still works to improve. It motivates them to work even harder.”

Social media seems torn on these damning details that have been revealed by the former Avalanche defenseman. Some say MacKinnon’s behavior is too much, while others commend the Avs star for his commitment to not only win, but to improve those around him.

Nathan MacKinnon is consummate pro. There’s no doubt that. This interview with former teammate Zadorov revealed what many likely already suspected of MacKinnon: He wants to be the best, and he’s won’t stop until he—and his teammates—get there.

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A graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, Scott has so far spent the early parts of his young career covering Colorado hockey — from the Avalanche to the Colorado Eagles to the DU Pioneers. His work can be found across sites such as NHL.com, TheAHL.com and SB Nation, among others. Scott currently resides in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, where he works as a Marketing Executive when he's not writing.

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gurnblanston

Wonder what Nate would have done to poor Tyler Arnason.

joshmishell

Seeing all the huge mistakes and penalties big Z took in games makes me wonder about the kind of crap he did in practice.

Jared Moss

Bahah just reminds me of what Dater said to mac after their last loss… :p I’m sure he would have had some words for him

Matt Briggle

What this says to me is just how important it was to get Landy signed up long term. MacK will probably never wear a C in the NHL, and I don’t think that’s anything he cares about. He’s going to do his thing to make himself and the team better. I would bet that Landy provides a nice counterweight to some of those rougher moments that MacK might have.

Wayne Dunlap

My guess is he’ll ease up on his teammates after a couple of cups…
…nahhh.

Colin arp

Look at Giannas.. On the court he is an absolute focused freak show. Off the court the dude is one of the nicest guys around. I think NM falls closer to Giannas than MJ. MJ was an all around ass, NM demands excellence on and off it but he doesn’t rise to MJ level. I think he’s closer to Giannas level intensity.

ErikV

Now compare Mac’s leadership to Eichel’s.

Past Urprime

…so he’s an a*****e. Got it. Didn’t need to write an entire article to get that across.

P.S. The Avs will win a Cup when pigs fly.

Jordan

It is called being a good athlete and being a good teammate

Marie Roberts

I guess if Z played the game with passion as MacKinnon did he would still be on the Avs. Z is a big goofball. Every Avs fan knows Mack is serious about the game and the only way he does that is to take care of his body. How he takes care of himself isn’t my concern. My concern is that he is playing 100% healthy. Z is the last person I would listen too. He was mad the Avs traded him and not pay him 5million a season.
This is my opinion.
Good article anyway

Marie Sexton

The entire cast and crew tolerate the controlling, egocentric eccentricities of the star because they know their show is better with the star in it. That doesn’t mean you can’t call a Diva a Diva.

Glad he’s on the team, but thank goodness they re-signed Gabe. Nate with the C would be a nightmare.

bob

Doesn’t sound like he is a quite guy if he is telling everyone what to eat.

So far MacKinnon is just another player without a cup that thinks HIS way is the only way

Eric Hervieux

This is Nate’s team, regardless of Landy wearing the ‘C’. Dude is on a mission and he will not stop until he succeeds.

Fred Noiles

He’s not the best player. As a Flames fan even I admit that player is in Edmonton! 😬

Nathan Edwards

Not a chance in hell that McDavid is the best player in the league. This Dude crumbles at any pressure of playoff intensity. Get thumped out in the first round like chumps. Please spare us this regular season flower talk. Nathan also has some work to do on his overall team game as he can be sloppy with the puck when trying to do everything himself.

Richard Trujillo

#29 also crumbles in the playoffs. His career game 7 performance alone is worse than Tyson Jost.

Catatafish

The Finnish guys have pointed to these things as well in interviews but always in a positive way. And they’ve seemed sincere about it too. Donskoi for example prior to last season talked about how much he had learned from Nate about beign an athlete. Especially off the ice and about diet. He was laughing that now as a veteran he’s in better shape he ever was.

Jordan

Well, to start with, that isn’t how he is off the ice. He is not doing it to be an ass, he is doing it to get guys to be better. It is called being a great player, a great athlete, and a great team mate. Everyone saying “good thing he isn’t a captain”, and idk how it works in the MHL, but if it is like the NFL where team mates vote for captains, then things like this would get him quite a lot of votes.

dp10

Great read! I say bravo and hats off to MacKinnon! Consider for a minute how much these NHL players earn for playing a game, furthermore consider that your average NHL salary is probably about 2 to 3 times of what players made 20 years ago while the salaries for the top brass of NHL players (a guy like MacKinnon or Makar) have stayed essentially flat over that same time frame. In other words, life (I.e. compensation) for the average NHL players has improved so much. Why wouldn’t you expect the utmost level of professionalism from them! At that level, if… Read more »

avs-kate

Good read, Scott! What I got out of this from each angle. It was Nate and the team, never just Nate. If it was the latter, there would be a problem. To be a champion, you have to do the things it takes, if you are not prepared to do that, maybe try another occupation. How much of what is said was true vs Z having moments of fame at Nate’s expense, we’ll never truly know. I must agree with Scott that I don’t think Nate has any designs upon captaincy. It would be too much noise that someone else,… Read more »

VitoCorleone

Yo peeps, these are professional athletes – athletic, driven, maniacal, performance perfection freeks. You don’t get to be the best in the world at anything any other way. Just the way it is. If you wanna play, you gotta pay! And as long as MacK leads by example, and works harder than anyone else, kudos to him.

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