During his freshman year of high school, Hunter Muzzillo began his ever evolving game day routine with repetitive behavior in hopes of the consistency transferring into his performance on the ice.
“Growing up I struggled being a consistent hockey player,” Muzzillo said. “So I just learned from me, what works is repetitive behavior throughout the entire course of the day is what it turned into. It started out with trying to create a consistent game of hockey.”
For the Rebel Hockey defenseman, his morning begins at 8:30 a.m. when he wakes up and immediately heads out the door.
Muzzillo will make a quick stop at Starbucks and order his usual venti vanilla sweet cream cold brew as he heads down to City National Arena while listening to his playlists on the way.
“I’m the kind of guy who likes to play a song on repeat until I never want to hear it again,” Muzzillo said. “I get to do that, play my music ridiculously loud just kind of be by myself and I just enjoy driving so it’s nice to get that time by myself to kind of just do whatever I want.”
Once he arrives at the arena, he’ll take a quick shower before checking out his stall to make sure everything is ready to go for the day. He will sharpen his skates if needed and prepare for the upcoming game.
“I’m usually at the rink for a while,” Muzzillo said. “I’ll time it out till seven hours before puck drop. I get to Chipotle and walk in and go get that. Puck drop is usually at 7:30 so I have to be there at 12:30. Get that, go home, eat, take a nap for however long that works.”
His go-to order from Chipotle is a veggie bowl topped with white rice, black and pinto beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese, guac and an extra tortilla.
Before every game, Muzzillo gets to the rink two-and-a-half hours prior to puck-drop, usually around 5 p.m. so he’ll wake up from his nap around 3 p.m. to start getting ready to leave and be out the door by 4:15 p.m. the latest.
The team hits the ice 30 minutes before the puck drops for warm-ups, giving Muzzillo almost two hours of free-time at the rink before he starts getting dressed for the game.
“I start getting dressed exactly 25 minutes before I get on the ice…. I’m always watching my phone to make sure I watch the time change to 25 minutes so I know that it is exact. I’ll put my bottom half on and then I’ll do the same thing again but at the 10 minute mark to put my top half on. Then I’ll head out the door to start getting ready to be on the ice at about three minutes before we get on.”
Out of Muzzillo’s strict game day routine, he’s most flexible with the music.
“I’m a massive country music fan- that’s what I listen to 99% of the time but on game days I don’t really listen to that,” Muzzillo said.
In the locker room before the game, forward Nick Flanders becomes the team’s DJ playing multiple playlists and a lot of Nickleback to get everyone going for the game.
During warm-ups, Muzzillo takes charge on the ice and keeps everyone on schedule.
“I’m kind of the time keeper of the whole deal so we do the same thing every time and sometimes some things take longer sometimes somethings don’t,” Muzzillo explained. “I just try to make sure they’re around schedule to get to everything that we need to… I like to get a feel for the puck- how do my hands feel, how do I feel in my skates.”
Muzzillo is usually the first one off the ice, skating off at the one minute mark for his final preparation in the locker room before the game starts. Every other exit off the ice, for intermissions etc, he’s the last one off the ice.
“I view myself going into the game… and then I’ll spend a little bit of the time stickhandling and doing things like that trying to get warmed up. There’s a bunch of different things that run through my head, like who’s the little kid in the crowd- you know things like that.”
Despite having a strict routine, it shifts during the road games as Muzzillo follows the schedule of the team. He’ll try to keep it as repetitive and close to his routine as possible, but that’s not always the case.
“It’s a team sport and I’m not gonna force my way into doing something that I need to do if it disrupts what’s going on with the team throughout the day,” Muzzillo said. “It’s just a feeling thing. I mean a lot of times we eat stuff other than Chipotle so I’ll eat that.”
“I just kind of follow along with the team schedule whatever is asked of us but so basically everything outside the rink changes except the nap and then when I get to the rink everything stays the same at the rink.”
While Muzzillo is one of the guys on the team with the strictest game day routine, a lot of the players like to keep it loose but it’s all about consistency for #26.
So far this season, Muzzillo has scored eight goals and 14 assists for a total of 22 points. Along with four power-play goals and one game-winning goal.
Make sure to come out this weekend to witness Hunter Muzzillo play on the ice with the rest of the Skatin’ Rebels as they take on Grand Canyon for their first home game in a month. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. at City National Arena.
Students receive free tickets at the door with their RebelCard and a free tailgate starting an hour before the game.
“It’s all about creating consistency and I wouldn’t still be doing it if I didn’t feel like I didn’t find success in it so I feel like it has done its job in creating a more consistent environment which has led to a more consistent game play for me,” Muzzillo said.