The ex-NHL teammates working on hockey's 'secret' remedy

On the ice, Karl Alzner, Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle were key role players. Off the ice, they were "the Chums" -- and have reconnected now that their NHL playing days are over. Rob Carr/Getty Images

ON THE ICE, they were vital role players for the Washington Capitals.

Off the ice, they were simply the Chums.

Forwards Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle and defenseman Karl Alzner played together from 2008-15 during the Capitals' "Rock the Red" era, when Washington teams had no shortage of star power, personality and playoff appearances. Beagle and Fehr were depth forwards known more for their checking than their offense. Alzner was more prominently featured as the team's top "defensive defenseman," logging plenty of minutes alongside star blueliner John Carlson.

The Chums did everything together on the road, from dinners to battling the tedium of long plane rides. Beagle said that while NHL players form bonds with teammates in every dressing room, these bonds felt different.

"Really looking back at it, those years with those guys were some of the best years of my life, just playing hockey and having those friendships," he said. "It was so special."

Only Beagle was still with the Capitals when they won the Stanley Cup in 2018. Fehr left as a free agent in 2015. Alzner did the same in 2017.

"We were super tight," Alzner said. "Then you notice that when you stop playing together, you just don't talk to the guys nearly as much. You miss it."

"Life catches up to you," Fehr said. "You just get too busy."

So the Chums drifted, until something unexpected reunited them recently. Fehr, Beagle and Alzner are all involved with LactiGo, a topical muscle recovery and sports performance gel that they say is gaining popularity among NHL players. Fehr is on the board of directors for LactiGo, while Beagle and Alzner are active investors. Fehr is also on the board for Ethoderm, the pharmaceutical side of the company.

As rewarding as they hope this business can be, becoming teammates again has been its own reward.

"It feels like we're still playing together," Alzner said. "Even though we're not talking hockey specifically, we have that same cadence that you would have if you were talking to a current teammate. Having had an opportunity to try and succeed on the ice and now having it off the ice is pretty special."

NHL PLAYERS ARE CONSTANTLY being pitched with financial opportunities. Not all of them work out.

"There were a few of us in Washington, right at the beginning of my career, we all put some money into something and we all lost it. A good lesson, right away," Alzner said. "Right from there, I was a little bit gun-shy about what I was going to put my money into, especially after I stopped playing. It's so hard to figure out. You could make money. Or you could lose all of your money."

The first one to get involved with LactiGo was Fehr. He was playing for the AHL San Diego Gulls in 2017-18 when he was pitched a product he hadn't heard of before. Teammate Michael Liambas brought him LactiGo, which Liambas was using to revive weary legs.

"You get a bunch of these things coming your way when you're playing pro hockey. People always bringing you stuff," Fehr recalled. "And then I used it, and I'm like, 'This is crazy.' My legs were so loose, so good. I started sharing it with teammates and buddies."

Fehr brought it to the Chums. Beagle was skeptical until he considered the source.

"You get pitched a lot of things when you're playing. A lot of weird, random things. This was one I tried out, because it was coming from Fehr," Beagle said. "He's such a good guy. Like, a good human. So when he calls, you answer. And when he says something, you take it seriously, because he lives with integrity."

Alzner was around 31 years old when Fehr pitched him and was feeling the burdens of being a veteran skater.

"My legs were starting to get ... heavier," he said. "Games were getting tougher. I hated going into practice feeling crappy, needing a couple of drills to them to come back. Going to morning skate and then it's, 'Surprise, my legs suck today.' So I decided to try it out."

Alzner was something who tried everything. Cold baths to massaging boots. He was recently reminiscing with an old teammate from Montreal about the guys using "pickle juice," which was "literally just water with menthol in it to make their legs tingle." Beagle recalls Alzner coming to offseason workouts with every fitness and diet fad, from low carb to no breakfasts to all manner of legal supplements.

So Alzner's interest caught Beagle's attention, too. If the guy who is constantly looking for the next thing settles on something, that caught Beagle's attention.

"If you don't know the guy, you wouldn't really understand it," Beagle said. "But when he gets excited about something and stays with a product for this long too, it's a testament to how good the product must be."

Fehr had inquired about investing in the company, but he said that founder Kevin Atkinson rebuked him. After about a year of pestering, Fehr was asked to help buy out a partner. Then he put another group together to buy out another investor, moving up to become one of LactiGo's directors.

Alzner expressed his interest in investing, and Fehr put him in touch with Atkinson. But he had to know more about how LactiGo worked.

"It wasn't originally even about the company. It was like, 'My team needs to use this, because we're not good,'" he said. "I'm one of those people that just really likes to dig in and understand why things do what they do."

When Alzner found out that his old teammate Beagle was involved with LactiGo as well, that clarified things for him.

"When Beags got involved, you know it must be legit. Let's just say he doesn't really invest in ... anything," Alzner said with a laugh. "Me and Beags go way back with what we always called 'per diem management' on the road. If we can save money somehow, we're saving money."

With the Chums reunited, the next step was trying to make their product a success.

The first step was creating awareness for something players liked to keep to themselves.

"Everyone who uses it doesn't want their competitor to use it," Beagle said. "And unless you're an unbelievable teammate, you don't want even your own teammates using it in training camp because you want to be better than them, right?"

"It's one of the best-kept secrets in hockey, and that's the struggle we have," Alzner said. "People want it for their own benefit and don't want anyone else to use it."

BOSTON BRUINS DEFENSEMAN Kevin Shattenkirk said he was always "just kind of an 'au naturel' guy" when it came to muscle recovery.

"I had never really put any sort of ointments or anything on my legs for games," he said.

Shattenkirk played with Alzner in Washington back in 2017. About two years later, Alzner reached out with a pitch to try out LactiGo while Shattenkirk was playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I felt like there was something definitely there. Something different," Shattenkirk said. "I thought at first maybe it was like a little bit of a placebo effect. But the more I understood the science behind it, then it all started to make sense."

Veteran forward James van Riemsdyk became an investor in the product after using it.

"There were a few of us in Philly, but basically the whole team in Toronto was using it," said van Riemsdyk, now a winger for the Bruins who recently passed 1,000 games played in the NHL.

When Shattenkirk was watching the U.S. men's world juniors team celebrate its 2024 championship, he couldn't help but notice the vibrant green-capped LactiGo cans on a table in that locker room.

"I didn't know guys that age got tired on the ice, but it's good to see that other people are believing in it," he said.

When Shattenkirk signed with the Anaheim Ducks, he found teammate Vinni Lettieri was using it. That surprised him because he hadn't known many other players that did.

Shattenkirk said he believes it's one of the best-kept secrets among players.

"That's not limited to hockey. It's in all sports, really," he said. "It's taken a little bit of a long time for it to break through because those who've had it don't really want to give it to the other guys. It's kind of like your ace in the hole."

Fehr said that's been the biggest challenge in trying to market LactiGo. When an athlete believes they have an advantage, they don't exactly want to share it.

"It's like a secret," he said. "We have UFC fighters using it all the time, but they don't want the other UFC fighters to be using it too. So nobody talks about it."

Alzner likened it to gaining inside information about an opponent as a hockey player.

"If you watch a video of somebody on a faceoff and you see his 'tell,' then you feel like you have an advantage. You don't really want to let anybody know your secret," he said. "Even on a team, you sometimes want to be better than your teammates, right? You wanna be the person that gets more ice time and all that stuff. So it's almost like you'd almost rather not everybody use it because you want to be better than everybody else."

But the other issue with athletes is their persnickety nature. If they add something to their routine that coincides with success, it'll remain part of that routine. If that success turns sour, then it's suddenly a candidate for deletion.

"That's the problem with the hockey guys," Fehr said. "They could put this stuff on, go out and feel the best they've ever felt. And if they're a minus-3 the next game, they'll never use it again."

FEHR SAID THAT he and his other investors get it. They played the game and had their own idiosyncrasies. In fact, they hope that NHL experience helps build confidence for athletes that are curious about their product.

"Realizing that it's a bunch of hockey guys behind it, that's kind of a cool story," Fehr said of Alzner and Beagle. "That's the best part of this whole thing. It's been great to stay in touch with them, but also to have a common project that we're working on at the same time."

They were teammates. They were Chums. And now they've been reunited in a way none of them had anticipated, and it feels just like old times.

Alzner said the players' business venture has a familiar cadence for them.

"It's same way an NHL season feels. We're battling so hard to try and get this thing to where we want it to go," he said. "Like in a season, there are ups and downs. One week is awesome. Then you go a week waiting for the next thing to happen. We went through the same thing as teammates, in a different way."

Fehr said the dynamic between the three former Capitals is the same as when they were playing.

"Beags is a quiet guy, always thinking. Alzner is always making new connections and contacts, because he's an outgoing guy. I kind of do as much work as I can and then delegate to the people in their strong areas," he said. "It's been a nice dynamic, and one you'd probably have seen on the ice."

Alzner said the project has allowed the trio to learn things about each other they hadn't known as players.

"It's been fun to see how our brains work outside of the rink now," he said. "I think a lot of guys go through all these different business ventures with teammates, they don't necessarily work out and then things peter out between them. But this has been such an exciting ride so far. It's pretty special to do this with them."