Andrew Cogliano not looking ahead as Ironman streak continues

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GLENDALE, AZ – MARCH 03: <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/3802/" data-ylk="slk:Andrew Cogliano">Andrew Cogliano</a> #7 of the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/ana/" data-ylk="slk:Anaheim Ducks">Anaheim Ducks</a> during the NHL game against the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/ari/" data-ylk="slk:Arizona Coyotes">Arizona Coyotes</a> at Gila River Arena on March 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Coyotes 5-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ – MARCH 03: Andrew Cogliano #7 of the Anaheim Ducks during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on March 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Coyotes 5-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Andrew Cogliano doesn’t think about “The Streak.”

In fact, he wasn’t even aware that Tuesday night marked a milestone in his career when he suited up for his 738th consecutive NHL game, moving him past Jay Bouwmeester for fifth on the all-time list.

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“If it wasn’t for someone telling me I probably wouldn’t have known,” Cogliano said.

Should Cogliano, the league’s current active Ironman, continue his streak through the remainder of this season, he’ll leapfrog Craig Ramsay and stand fourth all-time at 786 games.

The streak is a testament to Cogliano’s remarkable ability to remain healthy enough to stay in the lineup. He’s suited up for every game of his career beginning with the 2007-08 season when he broke in the league with the Edmonton Oilers as a 20-year-old. Now at the grizzled old age of 29, the Anaheim Ducks forward knows that the game has evolved over the last decade, and fitness is vital in order to have a prolonged career in the NHL.

“I think now you have no choice but to come in at peak physical condition because the league is fast,” Cogliano told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday. “You have to be prepared. You have to be willing to work, and in order to do that you have to be in good shape.”

Cogliano putting an emphasis on fitness and nutrition can be traced back to his youth. His mother, Teri, is a fitness instructor, so there was a focus on being active and eating healthy around the house growing up. He also played soccer through his teens before sticking with hockey and earning himself a spot on the University of Michigan roster for two years.

Not long after Cogliano entered the NHL with the Oilers, he started to work with Matt Nichol, the creator of BioSteel and trainer of numerous professional athletes. That’s when his eyes really opened to just how much was involved in keeping one’s body functioning at an elite level.

“He was a guy that really understood training and understood a lot of about that side of the sport,” Cogliano said. “I learned a lot from him, and he was one person that probably introduced me to a lot of the stuff early in my career – the importance of treatment, the importance of learning your body, the importance of being a good pro.”

Now Cogliano’s summers are spent working with trainer Andy O’Brien, who serves as the Director of Sport Science and Performance for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also keeps in touch in-season and out-of-season with Ducks strength and conditioning coach Mark Fitzgerald. They’re in contact to make sure he’s preparing his body the right way, getting proper rest and not overtaxing himself.

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After a grind of 82 regular season games and playoffs, which Cogliano and Ducks have participated in during the last four springs, rest is a necessity.

Once his season comes to an end, Cogliano takes 2-3 weeks off to do nothing. A mental break is needed and the body needs time to relax; then it’s back in the gym and back on the ice to prepare for training camp.

Food-wise, it’s easier for him to eat healthier in the summer than during the season with so much travel. Cogliano has begun to veer toward organic foods the last few years and eating smaller meals throughout the day.

“I think that’s a big part of it. You have to be smart with what you do in terms of when you’re away from the gym, especially with eating and nutrition,” he said.

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While many NHLers would love to play half as many consecutive games that Cogliano has, he’s not hit up very often for fitness or nutrition advice by teammates or friends around the league. Luck plays a part in the streak, but players now understand the importance of off-season work.

“A lot of guys in the league are doing the same things now,” he said. “I think a lot are understanding that I think it’s just a new age with the sport. You have to be able to be physically prepared coming into the season and you have to take care of what you eat and take care of your body. I think there’s no secret now, I really don’t. The league has become too fast. It’s become too high-speed that you need to be at your top level to compete and I think a lot of guys are understanding that now.”

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While Nichol can be attributed as a person of influence in Cogliano’s younger years, he says that his early days on the Oilers really played a big part in motivating himself to get the work in during the summer. He would come into training camp and see older guys like Steve Staois, Shawn Horcoff, Ethan Moreau and Jarret Stoll in better shape than anyone on the team. That professionalism, coupled with the work ethic of then-head coach Craig MacTavish, rubbed off on the young forward.

Horcoff, especially, played a key role in the education of Cogliano. They played together back in Edmonton and again last year during his final NHL season. So see Horcoff reach the 1,000 mark was no surprise to Cogliano.

“I think if it wasn’t for me being in Edmonton maybe I wouldn’t be how I am now,” Cogliano said.

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Another old Oilers teammates is Sam Gagner, who’s now with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both broke into the NHL during the 2007-08 season and Gagner has seen first-hand how Cogliano has been able to continue to suit up night after night.

“It’s really impressive,” Gagner told Yahoo Sports. “He prepared better than anybody I’ve met. I trained with him a bit in the off-season too and he takes care of himself and he’s an ultimate pro. You can really look at a guy like him and learn a lot in terms of how he prepares for games, how he prepares for the summer, what he puts into his body, the rest that he gets. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s a better pro in the league. You look up to Cogs for what he’s been able to accomplish and hopefully he keeps going on for a long, long time.”

Playing 1,000 games and getting that silver stick is a notable accomplishment for any NHL player. While Cogliano is a few seasons away from reaching that milestone — and if his streak of health keeps up, passing Doug Jarvis for the league’s all-time Ironman record — he’s not concerned with the future. His career has flown by, so he’s just enjoying the ride consecutive game by consecutive game.

“To be honest, I don’t think too far ahead. I don’t really think about that. I don’t really think about next year or the year after or the year after that,” he said. “The more I’ve played the more you have to enjoy yourself. This is a very special league to play in. This is a very tough league to play in. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really tried to slow things down and enjoy myself and go game-by-game and focus on this season. I’ll do that and see what happens.

“It’s gone fast. I can’t believe this is my 10th season in the league. I think I’ve started now opening my eyes and saying you better enjoy and realize how special it is to play in the NHL and really have fun with the time when you’re in it.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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