Equipment Manager of Beaver Hockey
by Jack Hittinger, Staff Writer
in: Obviously there’s much more to being an “equipment manager” than just washing the jerseys every night. What else goes into your job that people may not know about?
TP: Equipment managing varies from team-to-team, school-to-school, all the miscellaneous hats that you wear with it. Whether it’s scheduling ice times, travel plans, meal plans, ticket lists, coordinating stuff with the visiting teams and the Zamboni drivers. So again, it depends on where you’re at. But all of those things I listed, I do here.
in: So whatever needs to get done?
TP: Exactly. There’s a lot of little random things. Like, in the off season, I do a lot of working with (BSU head coach Tom Serratore) to figure out if we need to do major renovations or small things that we need to do to our wing (at the Sanford Center), to our locker room. We do have a lot of flexibility to do whatever we want away from the Sanford Center, so I’m involved on all of that.
in: How did you come to BSU? And how did you get into the job?
TP: I was coming to school here to play golf, and then they only had two goalies and back then the scholarship limit was lower, so they were only going to have a walk-on, third-string goaltender, and that was me.
I started as the women’s equipment manager, and that would have been 2009-10. (Women’s assistant coach Shane Veenker) just approached me about it, I had known him from hockey, I officiated a lot but never really thought that equipment managing would be a thing that I would do. But I did it that year, and then the next year I became the men’s equipment manager… that was the year we opened the Sanford Center. Then, three years ago their equipment manager left, so now I oversee both programs.
in: How much more responsibility is that, managing two programs?
TP: It’s not a whole lot. I do a lot of the off season work (for both the men and the women) in the summer, but then once the season starts I have a student that does a lot of the day-to-day stuff for the women.
in: In general, I’m sure you have different things to do on a week you’re at home as opposed to a week you’re not, but do you have a “typical week”?
TP: We do have a lot of routines here, but they vary from day-to-day. So there’s weekend routines at home, there’s weekend routines when you’re on the road. There’s Monday routine, Tuesday routine, and it varies when you travel a lot. It’s nice to have routines but it’s also nice that they change every single week depending on what’s happening. I would say that I have five “typical days” depending on what day it is, it’s one of those five days. For example, different types of travel are different. Traveling on a bus as an equipment manager is the best thing you can do. Flying is a lot more work, a lot more preparation just making sure everything is just right.
in: Since there’s no “typical day” for you, what’s it like being behind the bench during games? How much variation is there and work for you to do?
TP: The thing that I love about game day is that, when the game is going on, that’s usually the time I’m doing the least amount of work. It’s all before the game and after the game when I have work to do, but the actual game itself is just watching hockey for a lot of it. Awareness is important for equipment managers, just being aware of what’s going on and if you need to do something or help somebody. You do a little bit during the game but if you’re organized you have all of that stuff ready beforehand. On a typical game day I’m here for morning skate at 9 a.m., I do all my work from morning skate up until 2-3 p.m., then it’s just kind of hang out and wait for the guys to show back up. Once they come back for the game, it’s a lot of hanging out. Then after the game on a Friday I’m here until 2 a.m. I have probably about 10 loads of laundry to do, from our laundry to the visiting team’s laundry, jerseys, officials’ laundry. It adds up on a Friday night.
in: How much different kinds of laundry is there for you to do?
TP: You’ve got your loops, you’ve got your towels, you’ve got your jerseys, you’ve got your socks. You’ve got all the visiting team’s towels and jerseys. That’s the thing you have to do, and my students that work with me know, you have to develop a system. You have to make sure everyone understands the system and that there’s a flow to the system. Even when I pack for a road trip and when I explain to the players what I expect from them on a road trip, once you get into a system it’s smooth. I’m always trying to think 48 hours ahead. I’m planning what I’m doing tomorrow.
in: What’s the difference in the routine between being at home versus being on the road?
TP: When you’re at home you also have to deal with the Sanford Center people and scheduling the ice, you have to take care of the visiting team, you have to take care of the officials. We work with the game day event staff with whatever they need help with. When you’re on the road you are the visitors so it’s a little easier. It’s nice to be on the road for that aspect but of course it’s nice being home. Once you do something once or twice, it becomes a routine. We stay at the same places everywhere we go, we eat at the same places everywhere we go. You build these little routines into it.
in: It’s probably a lot of hours away from your bed.
TP: It is, especially with our travel schedule the way it is. And now that I have kids, that’s definitely going to play a factor into trying to get out of here at a more reasonable time. But I’m lucky enough that I get along very well with the staff. And (athletic trainer Bill Crews) and I are together every single time we’re on the road, and he’s one of my best friends. So if you get along well with your coworkers it makes life so much easier and we have that here. And being around student-athletes is the best part of college hockey.
in: How much time do you spend sharpening skates?
TP: The biggest thing is, on a daily basis, on a normal, traditional day here, I budget myself for four hours in my skate room. Weather that’s sharpening skates, riveting skates, sewing, repairing. You budget that much time. Because you don’t know. Maybe you’ll have four projects. Maybe you’ll have zero projects. You just don’t know. And that’s one of the cool things about it. Every time you fix something, it might be something you’ve done and it might be something completely new, but we do have a tight community of equipment managers in college hockey and even at the pro hockey level so if I don’t know what I’m doing I’ll call somebody. It’s a constant, “How are we going to fix it?” Well, you start with glue, tape and a scissors and you work your way up from there.
in: Do you have any favorite places you like to go on the road?
TP: It’s funny because when I think about where I’m going, I first look at it from an equipment manager perspective. And as an equipment manager I want a good-sized locker room. I want it to be close to the hotel so I can walk, because we need to get a ride before the players and after the players. So I look at those things too. Omaha had one of the best setups for us and we were always very successful there. We just came back from Marquette, Mich. (home of Northern Michigan), and they have the best visiting setup in our league. We’re tied with them at the Sanford Center, but they kind of have a small advantage, which is hard for us to say. But their visiting locker room is very nice, and they have space for trainers, they have space for coaches, they have space for managers in three separate spaces which is really nice. The players have two locker rooms, which is also very nice. I always tell my students on day one: We want our visitors to leave and want them to think that the best treatment they ever got was from us. I want us to be the most professional, best staff in college hockey.