PHATS Member Spotlight – Joe Huff

Joe Huff, Head Athletic Trainer, Anaheim Ducks

PHATS: What got you started in the athletic training profession and how did you get your start in Professional Hockey?

JH: I’ve always been interested in sports and growing up participated in whatever the current season was. During high school I had a couple of injuries that created an awareness for the Athletic Training profession and that’s when I decided I wanted to pursue it in College. At Iowa State one of the sport assignments for student Athletic Trainers was covering the club hockey team and I volunteered for that. After graduation I went to the NATA convention and searched the job boards. There was a posting for a Central Hockey League team in Macon, Georgia and I was able to interview for it there.  

PHATS: You are beginning your 10th season with the Anaheim Ducks.  Previously, you worked with their AHL affiliate, can you tell us about that transition?  What advice would you give to a member changing leagues this season?

JH: For me the biggest factor was familiarity and having rapport with people there. I had been to several camps and up for playoff runs with current staff and players. Having around 12 of the players previously in the American League was probably the biggest benefit to transitioning to Anaheim.

PHATS:  After 24 years in professional hockey, you most likely have seen a lot of change, ups and downs.  What advice can you give to those just starting out in search of the same type of longevity? 

JH: First you’ll need a strong and supportive family. After that staying even keel. People look for us to be calm and balanced in moments of distress. You may be helping someone through a terrible moment in their life/career.  Take pride in navigating those moments. Last but not least, be ready to work hard and enjoy doing the work.

PHATS:  What is your biggest satisfaction of the job?

JH: I’d have to say helping athletes through injuries and those moments where they believe things couldn’t be worse, then seeing them return to the ice. I also really enjoy helping the group solve different problems or issues that come up and getting it done without most people ever noticing.

PHATS:  What is your biggest challenge of the job?

JH: I would probably have to say just navigating different situations that come up during a hockey season can be a big challenge. Making sure everyone understands you have their best interests in mind. Being that link between injured player, team physicians and management is another challenge that we as athletic trainers face during the season.

PHATS:   What would you say has been the best advancement in Athletic Training and what would you still like to see? 

JH: I feel like in most things today technology is the best advancement. Whether it’s been advancing and adapting different modalities. Or just the use of devices to document, communicate and keep good notes. 

PHATS: What is your most memorable professional moment as an athletic trainer? 

JH: I’ve been lucky and over the years have had lots of different kinds of memorable moments. Being part of a group that navigated a cardiac event involving a visiting team’s player stands out more than most. Using the skills that we all practice and have been put into place by and for our group was very rewarding. Obviously first and foremost was having a good outcome. A lot of different things went well that day and everyone did their part.

PHATS:  Who have been your mentors over the years and how have they inspired you?

JH: Lucky for me most of my early mentors and instructors at Iowa State are still there and I’ve been able to make it back a few times. Frank Randall is one. Frank is the only one to retire after a long career and being one of the pioneers of the profession. Mark Coberley, Denise O’Mara, Mary Meier and Shannon Peel are all still there from when I was a student. Chuck Conner showed me the ropes during my first season in professional hockey and Marty Anderegg as well.

PHATS: What do you want your peers to know about you that they don’t already know?

JH: I was a member of the X-Games sports medicine staff and covered different events from 2001-11.

Tell us a little about yourself:

JH: I grew up in a small town, just north of Des Moines, Iowa. My parents, sister and her family all live in Kansas City now. I’ve worked in 5 hockey leagues, and we’ve lived in 5 states, Iowa and Georgia twice. My wife and daughters have been along on this journey, and I wouldn’t be here without their support.

All photos courtesy of Joe Huff.

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