Somewhere in the wilds of B.C.'s Okanagan Valley, just north of Kelowna, lives a man who never played the game.
Nevertheless, Adam Francilia's work during the six-month-long National Hockey League season takes him on the road. A lot. It's a grind he says averages out to more than three months away from home.
It's the life "the goalie whisperer" to a handful of the most successful puckstoppers in the NHL has chosen.
But it's at home, with his wife and business partner Cathy, that the work begins.
"My wife and I have a pretty unique lifestyle," Francilia said Thursday — Day 8 of a nine-day visit to Winnipeg where he is keeping tabs on Winnipeg Jets Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit, two of his most important clients.
"We live on an acre in the Okanagan... We have an organic, permaculture quarter-acre food forest that we planted. We juice produce that we pick from our garden that day. We have our own chickens. My wife grows all of our own herbs and she dries them and makes tea out of them. We don't use a lot of mainstream products and we heat our house with wood."
"I didn't make them talented — God made them talented. I can't take credit for them. But if they're willing to use that talent and be pushed to be able to exploit their talent. It's so gratifying." – Goalie guru Adam Francilia on his clients
Francilia's attention to healthy eating and living is more than personal. It's all part of his renaissance approach to tutoring elite goaltenders, a self-styled program combining nutrition, fitness, biomechanics, video review and holistic health and well-being.
His philosophy took shape more than two decades ago when he operated a fitness business out of his garage in Maple Ridge, B.C. (his second client was former Jets captain Andrew Ladd, then 14 years old) and has morphed into a Kelowna-based juggernaut that has staged summer training camps and provides year-round training services for his clients.
"I sort of made the job up," said Francilia, who is the creator of the Pro365 program, a co-founder of NET360 goaltending camp while also serving as the director of player development for Alpha Hockey Inc., the Steinbach-based company headed up by hockey agent Ray Petkau.
Aside from the two Jets, Francilia's stable includes James Reimer (Carolina Hurricanes), Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild), Thomas Greiss (New York Islanders), Eric Comrie (Arizona Coyotes), Aaron Dell (San Jose Sharks) and Troy Grosenick (AHL Milwaukee). In addition, former Jets Ladd (Islanders) and Tyler Myers (Vancouver Canucks), along with Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Justin Schultz are also clients.
This fall, he began his second season affiliated with the San Jose Sharks. Last year he consulted with the franchise's AHL goalies. This year he's working with with the NHL goalies, too.
Nutrition is the foundation of Francilia's philosophy and the twice-yearly visits to his players include what amounts to a food service. In each city, he'll shop for groceries and cook for his clients, filling their freezers with several months of healthy meal choices.
"I've had a really busy eight, nine days (in Winnipeg)," said Francilia, 47. "My cook day for Laurent was yesterday and the cook day for Connor was two days before that. I'll go, discuss the menu with them, make the grocery list with them and then I go and do all the shopping."
Meals are tailored to individual tastes.
"Every guy gets his three must-haves," said Francilia. "They'll say, 'I love this; I don't want to be without this certain thing.'
"There's certain different burritos the guys really love and there's this yam chicken salad that I invented a few years ago — the guys love it. It's a full meal. I can't tell you the recipe, it's a secret. You'll find there are two or three things that are really important to their routine and so obviously, that's going to be some of what I make."
It wasn't a coincidence that Dubnyk, Reimer and Hellebuyck all started working with Francilia during the summers prior to breakout seasons that led to big-dollar, long-term contract extensions in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2018-19, respectively.
"I think what happened was they took such a big jump in their performance that it became a bit of a niche draw," he said.
As he has gained prominence, Francilia has found more acceptance in a world where teams could feel threatened by outside opinions. When he was first breaking into the market, anonymity was the best policy, he said.
"I had to be a ghost, and I didn't care."
The results have made all the difference. Helping Brossoit revive his career last season in Winnipeg is one example.
"Over the years and after establishing the track record that I have, what's changed every year is the access and the graciousness of organizations to be OK with me working with their players," he said.
"I don't contradict anything that happens in organizations. For me, I love collaboration. So I don't want to come in and (say), 'It's my way or the highway.' Obviously, the health and fitness and the mental and emotional and part is completely separate. The only areas (of overlap) would be the training part and some of the biomechanics."
In Winnipeg, he's developed a strong personal and professional bond with Jets goaltending coach Wade Flaherty.
"It's always a continuation of what we work on, but the cool thing is Wade Flaherty is such a tremendous guy and coach and he's been so key for those guys," said Francilia.
"He doesn't get enough credit. He's taken a little bit of criticism but having gotten to know Flats, and just how he handles the person as well as the goaltender, he does not get enough credit. He's been so easy to collaborate with."
What simplifies the job, Francilia said, is the deal he makes with each client.
"I didn't make them talented — God made them talented," he said. "I can't take credit for them. But if they're willing to use that talent and be pushed to be able to exploit their talent. It's so gratifying.
"It's gratifying from the hockey end of it to see where they've come (from). It's also gratifying on the personal (level) because I get as much joy out of seeing these guys grow into good men as I do (seeing) them grow into great goalies."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.