Pod Perspective: A day in the Pod Life with Omaha’s Nolan Sullivan

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Jordan McAlpine
CONTRIBUTOR

Nolan Sullivan celebrates a Dec. 3 goal against Western Michigan in the Mavericks 10-2 win. Sullivan said the Pod experience has been a unique one, but they’re just thankful for the opportunity to be playing. Photo taken by Mark Kuhlmann / NCHC.

This is the latest of multiple Pod Perspectives giving Omaha, NCHC, and hockey fans alike a look at what the experience has been like for those within the NCHC Pod.  

For this edition, Omaha sophomore center Nolan Sullivan provides fans an inside look at what a day in ‘Pod Life’ has looked like for the players who are competing in this event. Sullivan describes the typical game day routine along with what the Pod lifestyle has been like overall. This story was written by Sullivan himself:

Let me start with a heart of gratitude and a feeling of many thanks. With only a few days left in the Pod, I sit in awe of how fast the time has gone. While reflecting on our last three weeks, one word continues coming to my mind… sacrifice. Sacrifice is defined as the act of giving up something of value to you, especially in order to help someone achieve a goal.

The amount of people sacrificing time with spouses, children and friends to help our team compete this year is remarkable. Needless to say, the cost of staying in a hotel for three weeks with meals provided every day. Omaha tackled the Pod challenge head on and for all the sacrifices I can and can’t think of, thank you.

Mornings look a bit different for everyone. For a guy like myself that enjoys the quietness of a 6 a.m. wake up, I soon found myself grabbing for every extra minute of sleep possible. That 6 a.m. turned into 7 a.m., 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., and that turned into a 7:55 a.m. scramble to brush my teeth before hurrying down for an 8 a.m. breakfast. One routine I tried to keep consistent every morning was reading the word of God with a cup of coffee by my side to get my day started on the right foot.

With so much adjusting and the unique circumstances, it’s been tough to settle into a consistent routine at times. However, Sullivan tries to start every morning by reading with a cup of coffee at his side. Photo courtesy of Nolan Sullivan.

We knew playing 10 games in 21 days would be physically taxing, but preparing mentally for finals week and games brought on a whole new mental challenge. I needed that quiet time in the morning to start my days off. After my quiet time, it was right off to breakfast with the guys. Meals consisted of some local favorites with First Watch and Lil Peeps, as well as my favorite peppered bacon from Jones Bros.

Then we were off to the rink for Covid testing. Talks of how deep they’d dive into our nose that morning was the discussion on the walk over to the rink. Rumors circulating of which nurse provided the most gentle swab pushed guys a certain way. A special thank you to Mike Nicola for overseeing the testing and allowing for a quick and efficient testing center so that the focus could remain on our next opponent.

From there we would head down to the locker room to get ready for pregame stretch and skate. The numbers heading out for optional morning skate quickly diminished as the Pod wore on. Stretching and treatment became the priority to help maintain proper form for the final games in the Pod. A final team meeting would send us on our way back to the hotel for some downtime before the game.

Sullivan proudly hangs a Mavericks flag above his bed in his hotel room. Photo courtesy of Nolan Sullivan.

“It’s a tough month to be a chicken,” Taylor Ward said, as we sat down to eat what seemed to be our 100th chicken breast in the past few weeks. Our hearts were racing to see if the meal had been delivered with barbecue sauce and parmesan for the pasta. Nobody likes a cheese-less pasta! Knowing this may be a problem for a guy obsessed with sauce, I decided to take initiative and bring a secret stock of Frank’s Red, Honey BBQ and grated parmesan in case of a no sauce incident. Smart thinking, right?

Great meals were provided throughout the entire Pod to ensure we would be fueled to play at our highest potential. Thank you to all the various restaurants for catering food to keep us safe at the hotel, and we also appreciate Backlot and Legends for shutting their restaurants down for a chunk of time so that we could actually get a hint of normalcy by eating in a restaurant.

As tough as it’s been not having fans in the arena, the players have been getting constant support in the community and on social media. There are signs displayed in the hotel, but this is just one of the many examples Sullivan has seen. Photo courtesy of Nolan Sullivan.

After the meal, it was time for a siesta. I always love a 45-minute nap on game days to clear my mind. Once up, I instantly throw on the Oculus headset to play neurotrainer, which is a game that trains your brain to function at the highest level while competing in sports. After finishing my mental training, I would take advantage of the free HBO TV to throw on my favorite show, Hard Knocks. With Hard knocks in the background, I made my pregame special avocado toast with two fried eggs, fruit and a coffee. Breakfast foods are my favorite!

With a knock on my door, I realized it was time for team prayer. Due to Covid, our normal rink routine was shortened as we could only be at the rink two hours before the start of the game. This meant the rearranging of normal rink routines, one of which being pregame prayer. Mike Martin, our team Chaplin, continued his incredible commitment to our team by joining us via facetime. He is a special part of our program and we could not be more grateful for him and his entire family.

Once our pregame prayer was complete, off to the rink we went. December was too good to us and weather close to the 50s led to enjoyable walks over to the rink. Badges were worn with Tier 1 authentication, and the 1-check Covid app was looked at by security upon arrival at the rink. Thank you to all the security workers for putting in extra time in to make sure the rink was properly protected.

All players, coaches, staff and media are required to fill out an assessment on the One Check app before arriving at Baxter Arena and show it to the staff member at the door. Players are considered part of Tier One in the Pod. Photo courtesy of Nolan Sullivan.

Routine for games felt as close to normal as possible. Mental preparation was key as it was a much different vibe without fan energy around the rink. We relied on each other and through thick and thin, we fought game after game to achieve success. This is a special team and I can’t wait for the opportunity for fans to be able to see us live. We miss you and are more than excited to sing the fight song with you in the lobby after the game the next time you are allowed in.

For now, we feel your support from afar and appreciate all the kind messages of encouragement you have sent to our team. What an incredible time to be a Mav and a great community to call a second home.

After wins, it was off to a post-game dinner. I know, lots of food throughout the day. Freshman Matt Miller has not only proved thus far what he can do on the ice, but also what he can provide off the ice. I bet you can guess what I’m talking about… Ice cream sundaes!

Starting with a blend of chocolate and vanilla and cookies n’ cream, then the tough choice of hot fudge, caramel and Reese’s spread. Topped off with your choice of candy, whipped cream and of course, a cherry on top! Nothing like ice cream and a Christmas movie with the boys to get you in the spirit.

Sullivan and Jack Randl enjoy an ice cream sundae following the Mavericks shootout-win against Minnesota Duluth. Sullivan said freshman Matt Miller has shown what he can do on the ice, but his true skills come at the dessert bar and making ice cream sundaes. Photo courtesy of Nolan Sullivan.

Finally, back to my room to end the day with a couple episodes of Designated Survivor on Netflix before heading to bed, only to do it all over again the next day. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention we mixed schoolwork and finals into that routine? Don’t worry… we all passed. My favorite story was Martin Sundberg scoring the overtime game-winner against Miami, only to rush back to the hotel to take a test. The true definition of a student-athlete.

Technically, history is the study of past events, but there is a branch of history called counterfactual theory. It asks the “what if” questions. What if we had a positive test? What if we didn’t have the funds to support our team? What if we didn’t step up to tackle the Pod head-on in Omaha? These “what if” questions bring fear upon many people.

This leads to my final thank you. Thank you to the people of Omaha for not living in fear. Thank you to the Coaching staff for putting in crazy hours and time away from family. Thank you to Jake (McKamey) and Nick (Brasel) for setting up our daily schedule and ensuring we had everything we needed. Thank you to Lew (Mike Lewis), Josh (Englebretson), Steve (Stonebraker) and Sarah (Miller) for taking the highest concern in our physical and mental health to allow us to compete at the highest level.

Thank you to Smits (Jason Smits) and Phil (Sanberg) for living short on sleep to help our team, as well as all the other teams, have the proper set up needed in order to compete. Thank you to Coach Kemp for leading the charge to enable us to play and thank you to Trev Alberts for taking the initiative to push for the Pod in Omaha and helping to make things run financially smooth for our team.

With just one game remaining, the Mavericks are nearing the end of the Pod. Sullivan said his favorite memory so far has been the ice cream and movie nights after wins. Photo taken by Mark Kuhlmann / NCHC.

Finally, thank you Omaha, for supporting us during the craziest period of my lifetime. Having no fans in the arena made me question why I love this game so much… sacrifice. Sacrificing for your brothers, your staff, and your community. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9. We are stronger together.

Everyone for Omaha,

Nolan Sullivan

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