Let’s Get Kraken
By Mike Booi, Head Athletic Trainer, Seattle Kraken
PHATS: When did you find out that you would be joining the Kraken?
MB: About 5-6 months ago. Somewhere in the middle of October 2020. It’s been a blur. It actually happened quite quickly. We were fully immersed in PPE ordering after the bubble experience when I caught wind of the open position. If anyone is in need of some Tronex 9250s, I know a guy.
PHATS: How soon after did you leave for Seattle? Did your family join you right away?
MB: We didn’t leave Virginia for another 2 and a half months. I had thought my application with the Kraken was a longshot at the time. When I was offered the position, it took a few days to sink in. Then reality hit and the record came to a screeching halt. Like I mentioned earlier, we were preparing for the season. A few players were already back in DC. Thankfully, the season start was pushed back enough that I was able to tie up all necessary loose ends. There were a lot of pieces that had to fall into place to make this happen, and thanks to some incredible people in both organizations, they did!
PHATS: Have you been to Seattle before?
MB: Once. About 5 years ago we were visiting my wife’s family in Oregon and we took a drive up for the weekend. I want to say it was mid-late July. It was awesome outside. Sunny and 75. I wasn’t sure what the rainy reputation was all about. Then we moved here. In January. In a pandemic. Now I know.
PHATS: What are you most excited about doing there once you are settled in?
MB: Going fishing. The PNW is an outdoor mecca. Medicine in professional hockey can be quite demanding. The schedule itself isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s easy for us to get caught up in our work schedule, and at times it’s difficult to leave the work at the office. The job really is 24/7, but there is something to be said about finding (or making) time to decompress. It doesn’t come often, so when the opportunity presents itself you have to take it.
I am also extremely excited to begin assembling our medical staff. This may be the most alluring aspect of joining an expansion franchise. I had some experience with this in the past as I came up through the different leagues, but for the most part that was just expanding provider networks that were already somewhat in place. The opportunity to shape a medical model with no precursor is rare. This prospect presenting itself at the NHL level may be once in a career. Incredible.
PHATS: What were some of your first priorities when you started?
MB: Everything. And the list is expanding exponentially! Getting to know the staff was high on my list. Knowing the people you work with; what their interests are, where they come from, etc., goes a long way in improving the cohesiveness of the group. From a business standpoint, creating a budget from scratch was probably the first priority. We have 2 arenas under construction (3 if you count our AHL facility), all with their own contractors, architects, & designers. There was a lot that had already been done at the time I was hired, but I was able to adjust some things to personal preference which is always nice. Working within a new state’s department of health regulations is always challenging.
PHATS: What does a typical day look like when there are no players yet?
MB: I’m not sure there is a typical day in times like these. It certainly is different. Aside from the playoff bubble, I’ve been working from home since the season pause last March. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. On the other hand, it’s felt like 5 years. The virtual conference world has become exhausting. Removing the personal interaction from a profession that is based so much in camaraderie has been odd. It’s all of the ever-increasing administrative responsibility without the welcome distractions that come with being in the locker room.
PHATS: What surprised you most about working for an expansion team early on?
MB: I’d have to say how grass roots the organization was kind of surprised me, though I’m not sure why. I knew it was a new team. I knew there was a lot of work to do. There are a lot of people in new roles here. Myself included. It’s been a great experience. Opportunities to grow the game are everywhere. It has taught me not to take any one position for granted. Coming from a storied franchise in DC, or any established network for that matter, the number of moving pieces and personnel it takes to keep the operation running smoothly is an idea that can easily be lost on someone.
PHATS: Have you spoken to any other AT’s who’ve joined an expansion team this early on?
MB: Yes, I’ve talk to almost everyone! And if you haven’t heard from me don’t worry, I’ll be calling soon.
PHATS: If so, what advise did they give you?
MB: That’s a tough one to answer specifically. Some has been trivial but nonetheless invaluable. Some has impacted me profoundly. And some has caused me to give my head a shake. You know who you are. I will say this; In the midst of what may be the most taxing season in our lifetimes, every person I have leaned on has taken time out of their unimaginably busy schedule to help guide me through this process. For that, please let me say THANK YOU. PHATS really is a brotherhood. We have an incredible group, and I am very proud to be a part of it.
PHATS: What are you most looking forward to when play begins for you in 2021-2022?
MB: HOCKEY. This has been an exciting yet humbling journey. We have a lot of work to do to get there, but I know the effort will be rewarded. Seattle is a bit of a nontraditional market, but it is a sport-centric town with championship history, hockey included. I look forward to getting back out on the road and seeing everyone again soon. Now, let’s get Kraken!
Photos courtesy of Mike Booi