Ice players bond over culinary contest

Kootenay cooks up some team chemistry in the kitchen.

Kootenay Ice teammates Collin Shirley

How many junior hockey players does it take to prepare a meal?

The whole team, apparently.

The Kootenay Ice took over the cooking classroom at Mount Baker Secondary School on Wednesday evening and cooked up a storm for their first-ever Iron Chef competition.

Players were split up into teams of three—Team Wolfgang Puck, Team Ramsey and Team Oliver—and each had to prepare a smoothie, a salad, a pasta dish with garlic bread and a rice crispy-based dessert.

One the line was a $100 gift card for East Side Mario’s for the winning team.

Each team had picked up the necessary groceries before showing up and had to prepare their meal for the judges in under an hour.

Judges included assistant coach Jerry Bancks, Tiffany Johnson, the team’s marketing and public relations manager, and myself.

Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill and his assistant, Chad Kletzel, hovered around the room, observing the chaos and giving a few basic cooking pointers.

Don’t use too much garlic.

Use butter or olive oil to sauté vegetables.

Some of the banter between players was priceless.

My personal favourite conversational snippet was an exchange between defenceman Spencer Wand, who was grating cheese, and a member of an opposing team.

Q: “Hey Wander, what kind of cheese is that?”

A: “I dunno. White?”

After the judges had sampled the culinary creations whipped up by all three teams, the winner was declared: Team Ramsey.

Players who made up the winning team included Drew Czerwonka, Wyatt Hoflin, Sam Reinhart, Tanner Muth, Collin Shirley, Jeff Hubic, Levi Cable and Matt Thomas.

Team Ramsey won the salad and smoothie portion, Team Oliver won the pasta and rice-crispy squares portion, while Team Wolfgang Puck took honours for the best garlic bread.

Team Ramsey erupted in jubilant celebration when their name was announced as the overall winner.

“It felt really good,” said Czerwonka. “We had some suspect judges, but other than that, it went really well.”

To the credit of every team, all the food was perfectly edible—nothing came out completely sideways, however, a few signature dishes took some creative license.

Case in point: I’ve never seen a Caesar Salad with carrots in it.

“That was Kyle O’Connor’s idea,” protested Wand, who was a part of Team Oliver.

Dishes were judged based on criteria of taste, texture, preparation and presentation.

On the surface, it was a cooking contest, but the real purpose was a team-building exercise, with McGill and Kletzel using the situation to watch how the players interacted with each other outside of the hockey rink.

Some teams were efficient, dividing up the duties evenly, while others had a couple guys taking on the majority of the work.

“I’ve done some team-building over the years, but nothing like that,” said rookie Collin Shirley. “It was a new experience, got the guys together to try new things.

“A few of us weren’t the best cooks, but it’s good to try new things.”

Wand agreed, noting that each team had to learn to work together.

“It was different to see the guys come out of their usual character and come out cooking,” Wand said, “but it was a good team event and we worked well together.”

Each team had one overage and one 19-year-old player, while the rest were scattered in between.

“It’s another team bonding thing, you get to see a different side of the younger guys that you haven’t seen yet,” said Czerwonka. “I think every team needs to do that kind of stuff, to get to know everyone and I think we did a good job of that.”

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