When NHLers John Tavares, Matt Read, Ryan Strome, Dylan Strome and Matt Moulson looked to get faster, stronger and more explosive to jumpstart their careers, they headed to the “dungeon” at the Athlete Training Centre (ATC) an 11,000 square foot state of the art training facility — one of the best in Ontario for training elite athletes.
While the training facility has achieved near celebrity status amongst top athletes over the last decade, the ATC’s beginnings were far more humble.
It all started with an Oakville dad devoting some time to helping his son get fit.
“My son was a hockey player with an ambition to play US college hockey. I was working in the investment industry, but I have a kinesiology background and have always been into fitness, so I began taking him to the YMCA at 7 am before high school. But dragging him out of bed every morning…well let’s just say I wasn’t the most popular guy,” Richard reminisces. “So I bought some equipment and set up the basement as a home gym. We called it the dungeon.”
Motivating his young protegee to put in the necessary gym time to reach his goals continued to be a challenge, so Richard reached out to one of his son’s buddies to join in the training sessions. That buddy happened to be a young Matt Moulson, who went on to play left wing for the Buffalo Sabres.
“We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were also giving birth to the unique training philosophy that characterizes and has made ATC the success it is today,” says Richard. “We learned that highly competitive athletes are principally motivated by their peers. So if your buddy is doing 10 pull ups, you are going to try to do 11. If Matt Moulson says ‘let’s run in the rain,’ everyone gets pulled along. And through this, ATC’s culture was founded. Get the top guys to to do it, and others will fall into line,”
At the time, Richard wasn’t even charging for his training sessions. But word of his basement dungeon began to spread, and the training program began to take on a life of its own. Soon, Richard had 50 people coming through his basement for training sessions. Hockey coaches were approaching him to train their teams. “At some point, I realized there was a business in this,” chuckles Richard.
He’s never looked back. For the first three years, ATC continued to operate out of Richard’s as a part time business, then, over the next seven years, the business moved to progressively bigger facilities, finally arriving at the 11,000 square ft. facility in Mississauga it now calls home. Working with a team of expert coaches who offer individualized training and motivation, athletes get themselves into peak condition through intensive strength training and skill development programs, including shooting practice using The SportScreen.
“We have two SportScreens installed, one indoors and the other outdoors. It’s great, because in between weight sets, the guys go out and do some shooting. It means no downtime.”
Over the last decade the ATC has helped five first round NHL draft picks, 24 Olympic athletes (including gold and silver medallists), and more than 50 professional athletes including 12 NHL stars to meet their strength and performance goals. The ATC also has trained more than 100 athletes who have gone on to achieve US athletic scholarships.
“Our culture remains hard core,” says Richard. “Athletes who come to us are pushed to the nth degree. No one is ever left on their own. We motivate and drive people to get the most out of them. It’s at the cutting edge of what we do. And we literally tell people we change lives. Whether you are an athlete with a voracious work appetite, or adult just looking to achieve unparalleled results – you’ll have success.”