William Nylander Is Prepping a Comeback for the Ages

Reebok & Sharp

William Nylander checked his phone soon after the Toronto Raptors held their NBA Championship parade. He was still in Sweden but was stunned to see the familiar streets of Toronto, the city he considers his home, jammed with millions of people reveling in the Raptors’ success.

In his mind he immediately began thinking about the Leafs being there…

“I was following it on Instagram; it was absolutely crazy,” Nylander told SHARP in a recent interview. “The Raptors won here, and I just kept saying to myself, imagine. Imagine if we did that here. Of course, it fuels me. The city is dying for us to win and it’s every guy’s dream on this team to win the Stanley Cup, but it takes a lot to win it. It’s so hard to go all the way, but we have the team and the ingredients to do it.”

After signing a lucrative six-year contract just minutes before the 5:00 PM deadline on December 1st, William flew to Toronto and began playing with the Leafs the same week. He stepped into a tough NHL schedule without any exhibition games or a team practice to prepare for his first game back. His start was slow, expectations were sky high, and his performance went down. This was far from what he expected from his himself and not indicative of his performance in prior years. The media is always tough on players in situations like this. As athletes, you have to learn to deal with criticism as you cannot control it. What you can control is your attitude and work ethic.

“As a player you always want to produce and play well for the team. Yes, at times I was frustrated,” Nylander said. “Every day you practice and expect to perform at the highest level. I want to be the best player on the ice every night.”

To suggest otherwise is foolish. Listening to Nylander talk about Toronto, it’s clear how much he has fallen in love with the city and how much he desperately wants to be part of a winning team. He loves playing where it matters.

Now with an eye towards a championship, Nylander has already begun his off-season training program following a three-week break after wrapping up a successful stint with Sweden at the World Hockey Championships in May. We sat down with him to talk about how he prepares for the upcoming season, why he couldn’t get going last season, his off-ice training routine, personal style, and more.

How have you altered your training routine this summer?

I haven’t really altered it too much. Last year at this time I was thinking there was going to be a deal done by the time the season started, so I was doing the same stuff then as I’m doing now. This year was a little different too because the season went longer for me with playing at the World Championships.

How valuable is the peace of mind your six-year contract brings you, knowing you have some security for the next little while?

I wanted to sign a long-term contract. That is what security is for me and the team, and this allows me to focus on just playing hockey and winning.

Tell me about your off-ice training routine.

I usually train five days a week, with one day as a recovery/stretch day and one full day off. On Mondays I do legs, heavy legs. It’s a lot of squats and dead lifts with core work mixed in. Everything I do is geared toward explosive conditioning for the legs. Tuesday is upper body and conditioning work on the bike. Throughout the week we try to mix in some squash. It’s great for explosive movements and it’s a fast game, so your mind is functioning quickly too. And it’s fun because there’s a competitive aspect to it. Instead of running around cones, you’re getting a great workout and improving physical and mental agility. On Wednesday, I focus on single leg, balance type of activities and single arm workouts. Thursdays are more upper body and explosive sprints on the bike, more short bursts, and less of a focus on endurance. Friday is all about legs but again geared towards explosiveness, power, power, power. Less of a focus on building strength but utilizing the strength you’ve built up. Saturday is a stretch/recovery day and then Sunday is my day off.

How is your off-ice training routine complemented by the Reebok gear you work out in?

The Reebok gear is a huge part of my training. The brand provides me with several different options for footwear, depending on the type of workout I’m doing, each geared toward a specific type of exercise. They help me not only do each workout safely but help me enhance my performance during specific exercises to get the most out of my training.

So, you wear different footwear depending on your workout?

I wear several different types of shoes. When I’m doing the heavy leg work, I wear the Reebok Legacy Lifters specifically designed for weightlifting, which really help when I’m doing the squats, cleans, and dead lifts. They raise my foot up a little bit on a slight incline on the heel, so when you’re squatting, it helps get your posture aligned properly while lifting weights. I use the Reebok Flexagon for general off-ice training, which are great for agility and quick movements.

I heard your dad is visiting Toronto with you this week and you did an event together through Reebok and Sport Chek. What was that all about?

We had three young fans and their dads come in after winning a Father’s Day contest through Reebok and Sport Chek on Instagram and they did a workout with me and a trainer. It was a ton of fun; they were working really hard. It was a tough workout for people who aren’t used to an NHL style workout. They were like 17-to-19 years old and trying to keep up with me. I mean, I didn’t really have to go that hard, but it was cool, helping them, pushing them to get better and understand the types of workouts we go through as NHL players. My dad joined us in the event too! I mean, he let me do most of the working out but joined in once in a while. He likes to oversee things from the side.

Do you and your dad ever work out together? 

Absolutely. He puts together the workout programs for me and my brother and trains us throughout the summer. We play squash together too; he’s pretty good because he’s been playing for 15 years at least, so he makes us run quite a bit. He won earlier today, two games to one. I don’t know, I think after a few more sessions I will get him for sure.

What is your favourite go-to everyday sneaker?

The ones I’m wearing right now, the Reebok Club C. These ones are off-white but I’ve got the white ones too. Actually, I’ve got them in so many different colours depending on what I’m wearing. Firstly, I think they really look good and they basically go with everything I wear — jeans, shorts — and they’re really comfortable to walk in, which is important to me.

What are the must-haves in your closet for formal and casual fashion?

Casual, I’m more of a jeans and baggy T-shirts type of guy. I love wearing my Reebok track jackets day-to-day. I wish I could show up to games like that sometimes, but I like wearing suits too. You can express yourself pretty well with them. I like three-pieces, double-breasted, but always European styling. The slimmer cut. Very important!

Where would you rank your style amongst other guys on the team?

I think a lot of us on the team kind of have the same style because we’re all close to the same age. Funny story: Kasperi Kapanen and I live in the same building and we usually go to games together. We have almost the same exact dark green three-piece suit. A couple times last season, we rolled down and met in the lobby and we were wearing the same exact suit. It’s not like one of us was going to go back and change but it was pretty funny.

What did you learn about yourself last season?

From adversity you grow as a person and as a player especially if you deal with it the right way which I believe I did.  I had three points in my first 20 games and that has never happened to me before in my life. 

What was the biggest unexpected challenge you faced when you returned?

I had been skating by myself for about three months and then went right into playing games in the NHL without even a team practice — that was quite challenging.  It was a weird start to the season. It’s very different to practice alone for that long, not knowing when the contract was going to come together. In the end, I knew it would be resolved — I wasn’t going to miss the whole year.

How valuable was your success at the Worlds, where you led the tournament in scoring with 18 points in eight games, from a confidence standpoint?

Of course, it was great for me to play and perform really well. It was good to finish off that way, but it would have been even more fun if we had won the Worlds again.