Health & Fitness | December 4, 2016 5:00 am

Wayne Gretzky’s Truly Weird Pregame Diet

Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Edmonton Oilers recieves the Stanley Cup Trophy after the Oilers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals on May 31, 1987 at the Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Edmonton Oilers recieves the Stanley Cup Trophy after the Oilers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals on May 31, 1987 at the Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
HARTFORD, CT - APRIL, 1979: Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates a goal during a WHA game against the New England Whalers in April, 1979 at the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
Wayne Gretzky #99 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates a goal against the New England Whalers in April, 1979, in Hartford, Connecticut. (B. Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
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Athletes are often known for eccentric pregame meals, such as baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs’ obsession with devouring chickens. (He estimated that he ate one-and-a-half chickens a day.) Even by these standards, Wayne Gretzky, hockey’s Great One, had a unique approach to dining. His diet violated every rule of sports nutrition, yet still made a strange amount of sense.

Gretzky notes that his father instilled in him the value of “proper rest, proper nutrition, proper diet.” Making it all the odder that his preferred pregame meal consisted of four hot dogs with onions and mustard, washed down with a Diet Coke. (He notes he would occasionally mix it up by grabbing pizza or a sandwich, depending on where his team was playing.)

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6: Former Edmonton Oilers forward Wayne Gretzky greets fans during the closing ceremonies at Rexall Place following the game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game was the final game the Oilers played at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Wayne Gretzky greets fans during the closing ceremonies at following the game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016, at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

 

There is an odd logic to it, however. Gretzky was a big believer in routine and, starting in his school days, he would make a point of having something he could both get and eat quickly to prevent hunger during night games. As for the Diet Coke, he says that gave him the “same sort of stimulation as an energy drink.”

The result was that Gretzky felt he had the time to get his rest before games, while still eating enough to feel full and get an energy spike courtesy of the Diet Coke. And while this would make any modern team dietician’s head explode—the Great One retired in 1999—you can’t fault the results: Gretzky won four Stanley Cups and rewrote the NHL record book. (Incidentally, Michael Jordan reportedly had his own, slightly more upscale version of Wayne Gretzky’s pregame meal: a baked potato, ginger ale, and 23-ounce steak—yes, that was his number.)

Below, watch Gretzky discuss his diet. At the bottom, just enjoy the Great One being great.