Joffrey Lupul buck naked
This is an extended interview from the 2013 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. Subscribe to The Mag today!
Why did you decide to pose?
JL: Being a hockey player, I want to experience as many things as possible, and posing naked in a magazine is certainly not something I ever thought I'd do. I think professional athletes have natural abilities and there are things our bodies can do that other people's can't. But we also put in a lot of work -- on and off the ice -- and that's what the issue is about: Seeing how people look without their gear on.
What do you like about your body?
JL: We train a lot of lower body and core, so I think my leg strength and ability to generate power with my legs and core is the thing I'm most proud of. Every day when we go out and practice, we're always in that same position of legs bent and ass halfway down to the ice, almost like we're a speedskater or a skier. Everything I do, I try and do with that in mind: low center of gravity, stay low to the ice and make myself harder to knock over.
What is your biggest challenge with your body?
JL: Day to day, keeping my back healthy. It gives me issues from time to time, and I have a regimen from doctors and trainers that I do every day. Trouble with your back can not only hinder your career but also hurt you post-hockey, so I certainly want to make sure I take care of that. It's always in the back of my mind.
I've had back surgery a couple of times. I thought I'd have a quick recovery, but it ended up being a long, drawn-out process. But that just made me work harder away from the ice and concentrate on strengthening other parts of my body to take stress off. Before that injury, I didn't have too much emphasis on strength and conditioning, and now here I am getting naked for a magazine. There you go.
What is your most unusual training?
JL: People find it odd that I do yoga. They don't expect that from a hockey player. It helps strengthen my core and gives me flexibility to help prevent injury. I started after I had back surgery, and it's now something I quite enjoy. I'll have to admit I'm still not at the advanced program quite yet. You won't catch me standing on my head in there. There will be a 60-year-old lady doing things, no problem, and there I am, a professional athlete in the prime of my career struggling. So it's humbling.
How much of your physique is nature versus nurture?
JL: It's 50-50. I think a lot of my natural athletic ability comes from my mom, who is 49 and in great shape. She's in the gym three or four days a week and at yoga a couple days a week. (I've gone with her a couple of times; she's better than I am.) Like me, she loves sports and challenging herself. But earlier in my career, when I didn't put in the extra effort that I do now, I sometimes found myself a little behind. As I got older and more mature, I learned what works for my body. I know what to do in the offseason now.
What would you define as your edge mentally?
JL: I hate to lose. I'm an easygoing guy, but whenever I play sports, I want to win the game. It's not going to ruin my day if I lose a fun game of beach volleyball, but I want to win -- badly. It spills over onto the golf course when I'm out with buddies. On the front nine, it seems like everyone's having a good time, and then when it gets to 15, 16, 17, 18, everything is serious. From time to time, you'll hear a four-letter word or maybe even see a club flying. When you get a bunch of professional athletes together and put them in a sport, you'll see that competitive edge come out no matter what sport it is; it could be a game of Scrabble.
Can you speak to the toughness of hockey players?
JL: What hockey players play through on a day-to-day basis is pretty unbelievable. A lot of it has to do with our adrenaline and being in that competitive situation, but we also play through pain. You get in that competitive environment and in the mindset of "I don't want to come out." One year, I fractured my wrist with 10 games left in the season, and I kept playing and got injected before every game and didn't think anything of it. The normal person doesn't understand that. It's not guys trying to be stupid or damage their bodies, but no one wants to admit when they've been injured. You get hit in the head and you're not 100 percent, but when the trainer asks, 9 out of 10 guys will say they are all right. It's not a great thing, but that's the way it is. We measure injuries not by pain, but by how long they keep you out.
Do you think there's anything unhealthy about how you treat your body?
JL: It's a rough game, and I've put my body through a lot of abuse. I've had head injuries, back injuries, separated shoulder, broken arm. But it's part of hockey. I'm doing what I love, and you won't hear me complain. But we do put ourselves through a lot, and someday I'll probably pay the price. It's worth it for doing what you love, but you try not to think about it.
What's the worst thing you've been through mentally?
JL: Earlier in my career, I got traded to my hometown team, the Edmonton Oilers. I was born there and all my family is there, so it was initially a dream come true. But that season didn't go my way. The team struggled, I struggled, I was scrutinized by the media and fans, and I lost it a bit mentally. To this day, I can't put my finger on exactly what went wrong. I think I just got off to a tough start and put pressure on myself, and it was the first time I had been looked at in a negative way, and I didn't react well. Looking back, it probably helped me become the player I am now and get more mentally strong, but that was a difficult year.
How would you rate your pain tolerance?
JL: During a game, my pain tolerance is very high, but when I wake up the next morning, I feel like it's pretty low. You wake up and think, Geez, what the hell happened!? A couple times I've gone in the next day with an injury, and the trainer will be like, "Why didn't you tell me yesterday!" Well, I didn't realize it yesterday.
What about your body would surprise us?
JL: Hockey players are known to have big asses; it's tough to find pants that fit. I don't need custom-made pants, though there are certain brands that fit better. And I have to do a couple of deep squats in my jeans before I wear them out or they won't look quite right.
What is your must-have junk food?
JL: Potato chips. Or chips and salsa or guacamole. If those are around, I'll eat them -- I'll eat all of them. And I love a cold beer after a game. It's certainly something that I don't really want to cut out of my diet.
What is the your must-have training food?
JL: I've got a Vitamix blender, and I put everything in there. I make smoothies with protein for breakfast. This morning it was blueberries, strawberries, banana, spinach and kale. That blender will take care of anything.