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Pirates goalies take to the kitchen

February 14, 2014
Photo: Michael McSweeney

by Kirk Dyson || AHL On The Beat Archive

The Portland Pirates finished up a slate of three road games in four nights just before the All-Star break, which followed a three-in-three they hosted at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston the weekend before.

The constant practices and games can be taxing on a player, both physically and mentally. So how do players get away from the rigors of their profession?

For the Pirates’ goalies, that escape comes in the kitchen.

Mark Visentin and Louis Domingue not only share a crease in Portland, they share a passion as well: cooking.

For Visentin, the first time he became enraptured with cooking was when he was a teenager. Part of the reason was that he had to cook for himself while he played junior hockey with Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League. But he also started to become interested after a class he took in school.

“I just kind of took a cooking class in high school and really enjoyed it,” Visentin said. “It was a lot of fun so ever since then it’s kind of grown on me.”

Domingue, however, found his interest a little earlier.

“It’s something I picked up watching my mom and grandmom when I was young,” Domingue said. “I really always liked to watch it and I like to eat so mixing those two together, I don’t know. So when I had to cook for myself, I just started doing it. I just enjoy doing it, I like being in the kitchen and taking the time to do it.”

Domingue humbly acknowledges that he cooks for just a few people, and so far, he has gotten positive feedback.

“I haven’t had any bad reviews,” he admits. “Maybe they’re lying, maybe they’re not. I don’t know,” he added, laughing a bit. “It’s good when I eat it so it’s a matter of taste. I like trying new tastes, new cultures, different types of food.”

His interest caused a bit of a stir earlier this season when he was playing for the Phoenix Coyotes’ ECHL affiliate in Gwinnett. Domingue was supposed to host a small cooking show after the team learned of his skills.

“It was just something for fun,” he said nonchalantly. “We got Kroger to sponsor it, the big grocery store there, and just decided to have fun about it. It started on Twitter, me and [Peter] Delmas were sending each other pictures of what we were making that night and then we started battling and decided to do a show. He was supposed to be my guest in one of the episodes there but unfortunately, or fortunately for me, I came here.”

But just because he planned on hosting a show does not mean that Domingue finds himself to be any kind of top chef.

“Absolutely not,” he said adamantly. “I really try a bit of everything. You know, I have different books and I just go through books and find what I like and try.”

Visentin also likes to explore different avenues when he cooks. He recently made pulled pork for a small group of his teammates and last year even tried to make stuffed peppers.

“They got some negative reviews,” Visentin said with a smile. “They didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to but I’ve learned from my mistakes and I haven’t made them since. But the pulled pork the guys seemed to like and the leftovers were snatched up.”

Visentin concedes that he can make a really good grilled cheese, as well as a good steak, but his dream dish is still a work in progress.

“My grandparents, they’re Italian, they make a real good risotto,” Visentin said. “I’ve been doing my best to replicate it but for some reason, I can’t get it the same. But I’ve been working on it so hopefully one day I’ll master it.”

Domingue, on the other hand, believes his best dishes are desserts. He has made trottoir, a French tart typically with a berry jam and a thin, latticed crust on top, as well as raspberry tarts that he believes to be “very good.”

While Domingue’s interest in cooking started when he was young, he was mostly an observer. Now that he depends on himself to cook, though, he is beginning to find his stride.

“It’s mostly last year that I started doing it myself on a daily basis,” he said. “I was helping my mom here and there picking up things but I wasn’t really good. I think this year more than before, I’ve been trying harder stuff and a lot more different stuff so this year is my breaking out year.”

While Domingue enjoys having others try and appreciate his food, Visentin likes the distraction it provides from the everyday hustle and bustle his career causes.

“It definitely clears your mind, gives you something else to focus on,” he said. “I know when I leave the rink, I try not to focus too much on hockey because we play it so much but it definitely helps with that.”

But a clear head is not the only benefit Visentin finds from his time in the kitchen.

“Being an athlete, I think knowing the importance of nutrition is pretty crucial whether you’re practicing or playing games, to fill your body properly,” Visentin said.

So it appears to be the perfect hobby for the duo between the pipes -- it not only provides them with a perfect stress reliever but guarantees that they are eating healthy to maintain themselves for the team. And what could be better than that?

“I like to eat it,” Domingue offered.

Yeah, that too.