Playing hockey may come naturally to members of the Portland Pirates. But preparing a healthy meal?

It’s an entirely different sport.

That’s why the owners of the Phoenix Coyotes — the Pirates’ National Hockey League affiliate — have arranged for 14 Portland Pirates to participate in a course on healthy cooking.

The course, to be given Tuesday at Southern Maine Community College, aims to improve the players’ nutritional intake and make them healthier.

It also will give the young men an experience some have never had: cooking for themselves.

“Phoenix would like their players to eat healthy and cook healthy,” said Chris Knoblock, spokesman for the Portland Pirates, the Coyotes’ American Hockey League affiliate. “We are talking about a group of young men in their early 20s who don’t know how to cook.”

The players will meet at SMCC in South Portland to be schooled by Jill Hannaford, executive chef at the college’s McKernan Center.

Matt Wickenheiser, SMCC’s spokesman, said the Pirates’ introduction to cooking will cover food preparation techniques, baking fish, working with parchments, sauteing, steaming vegetables, toasting almonds, making a vinaigrette, measuring and working with dough.

Hannaford will also review the various cuts of beef, chicken and fish to help players choose healthy, affordable portions when they go to the grocery store.

At the end of the four-hour course, each player will receive a playbook of sorts, with recipes, basic cooking guidelines, measuring instructions and nutritional tips.

The players will get to sample what they prepare, including wine and herb tilapia fish in parchment bundles; grilled teriyaki beef skewers with peppers, scallions and mushrooms; steamed broccoli and carrot medley; and organic green salad with garnishes and balsamic vinaigrette.

“For the most part, these are young guys who are living alone,” said Knoblock.

Many started playing professional hockey as soon as they left high school.

“These guys are hockey players. That is their life goal,” Knoblock said.

He said most of the players rent houses in Maine during the hockey season. The Pirates play a total of 76 games, half of them out of state, and the players almost always travel by bus. Lifestyles with so much travel can foster poor eating habits.

SMCC offers training for various industries, but has never done such a culinary class, said Julie Chase, associate dean for business and community partnerships, the division that offers non-credit cooking courses.

“As always, we love a unique challenge, and want to be responsive to whatever area businesses need to support their work force training,” Chase said in a statement. “I’d love to see if we could do similar programs for the other teams, like the Sea Dogs and Red Claws.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]


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