As an assistant captain for the Michigan hockey team, Justin Selman has a lot of responsibilities both on and off the ice.
But the biggest quality the senior forward brings is his dedication and work ethic, which in turn has set an example for the rest of the team and earned him recognition this past summer, when he was named a 2014-15 Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The award is given to collegiate athletes who have dedicated themselves to strength training and conditioning, as chosen by strength coaches.
“I know that the guys who won it with or before me were Derek DeBlois, Mac Bennett, Zach Hyman and Andrew Copp,” Selman said. “All of those guys were great leaders and hard workers.
“I didn’t really know what was required to get the award, but anytime you get recognized for something you do, it’s nice to see that your hard work gets noticed, and it’s something to keep in the back of your mind when you’re working out.”
But Selman’s journey to developing the work ethic he has today began four years ago, when he discovered the Prentiss Hockey Performance gym in Darien, Connecticut.
The gym, which is about 1,000 square feet and is built inside an old gas station, is run by Ben Prentiss, and has become a place where National Hockey League players flock to during the offseason to work out.
As for Selman, it took him only one step into the building before he was hooked.
“I knew a few guys who had mentioned it to me who had been there before — some college players,” Selman said. “So I checked it out one summer, and I loved it from the first day.”
While the training is extensive and effective, the biggest lesson Selman took away from the gym wasn’t from the trainers, but from the NHL players who worked out there.
In particular, Martin St. Louis, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers, was someone Selman looked up to.
“He just worked out so hard everyday, and he has a family,” Selman said. “He showed me that there were no excuses. He would come in at 6 a.m. or 9 p.m., whenever he could find an hour or two to work out. He showed me that whether you’re tired or have a lot of stuff going on, you still have to make time for the stuff that’s important.”
The gym not only helped him with his strength and conditioning, but also helped him revamp his diet, which gave him more energy and stamina.
“Going in, I thought I ate pretty healthy, but (Prentiss) kind of flipped my diet upside down,” Selman said. “Everything he told me to do, within a month, I noticed I had a lot more energy. I really leaned out, but I was putting on weight at the same time. I felt a lot stronger, a lot more alert.
“I cut out all the processed food, as much as I could. I might have wheat bread here and there if I have to. It’s hard on the road and in college, but in the summer, I’m really strict about it. I try to eat grass-fed meat if I can and a lot of stuff you find at Whole Foods. It’s a little more expensive, but it definitely pays off.”
This past summer, Selman moved away from the Prentiss gym, deciding to work out in Ann Arbor with strength and conditioning coach Joe Maher.
While Selman said his time with Maher was the hardest summer workout he has ever done, staying in Michigan was equally about being back around his teammates.
“In the summer, when we’re all here working out, some of the days get a little bit long,” Selman said. “As a leader, you have to be the one who guys look to that’s working the hardest. You have to be someone who can be looked up to that is working as hard as they can.”
Added Maher: “He has a belief in the program here, and he has belief in our standards here. We want a culture where guys don’t want to leave and stay here and be together with their teammates as much as possible.”
But just because Selman wasn’t working out at the Prentiss gym, it didn’t mean that he left behind the consistency he had learned from his summers in Darien.
“It wasn’t always what (Selman) was doing in the weight room (this summer),” Maher said. “He understood there was a whole other picture in the 20 hours he wasn’t in the weight room that he committed himself to. That started off with nutrition and went into recovery.”
And the results have shown. Selman has already scored two goals and tallied four assists, totaling six points through four games — a number he didn’t reach until midway through last season.
“He’s got some more jump,” Maher said. “He’s gained some speed, and he’s gained a step. He’s gained some explosiveness, which is good. He also has that ability later in practices and games, so he doesn’t fizzle out.”
Selman’s work over the past four summers has culminated into a final season at Michigan, when he looks to lead the Wolverines back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
And if it happens, at least some of the credit has to go to that old gas station in Connecticut.