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.
“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.