PHATS Member Spotlight – Rob Milette

Rob Milette, Head Athletic Trainer, Winnipeg Jets 

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

RM: It started after two years of taking classes in university for business administration.  I then realized this was not the job for me, I applied to the University of Manitoba in the physical education still thinking I was going to become a Phys Ed teacher.  When I got accepted and started classes I learned about Athletic Therapy and I thought to myself this is the path for me.  I wasn’t good enough to play at a professional level so maybe I could contribute in another way.  I graduated, passed my certification exams in 2002, and there was an opening for an Assistant Athletic Therapist/Assistant Equipment Manager with the Manitoba Moose.  Luckily for me, during my time in university, I worked at a sports store in the service department.  I knew how to sharpen skates, change holders and steel, re-palm gloves etc.  That put me to the top of the list and I was hired in August of 2002.

PHATS: Tell us about your transition from Head Athletic Therapist with the Manitoba Moose, AHL to Head Athletic Therapist with the Winnipeg Jets, NHL?

RM: I just want to say I was very fortunate to work for the Manitoba Moose in the AHL, we prided ourselves as a top AHL team that would treat our players as if they were in the NHL.  We hoped that this would help us transition to the Jets in the NHL.  I remember distinctly I was in Vancouver with the Canucks during the Stanley Cup finals, standing in the equipment room with Mark Grehan our Head Equipment Manager at the time, when Mark Chipman came to the mic and announced that the Atlanta Thrashers had been purchased and were moving to Winnipeg.  At that same time coach Vigneault was walking through and he chirped at his staff that they better hide all the secrets in the room because we were now the enemy.  At that time all of the Moose staff had no idea what was going to happen with our jobs.  Fortunately for us, we were allowed to apply and ultimately get promoted to the NHL.  It was a wild summer of travel and preparation, but we managed to get it done and here we are.

PHATS:  For those just starting out in this field, what advice would you give to  them?

 RM: The advice I give to all my students passing through is to help with your equipment staff.  You are going to spend more time with these individuals than your families during the season.  So if you can help them in any way once all of your work is done, do it.  Whether it is folding a few towels or hanging some laundry before you head out for the day, this will go a real long way.  I remember in my early days when staffs were not as large as they are now, I would help rivet holders maybe sew a few gloves.  My favorite thing to do is modifying equipment for an injured player, sewing in protection etc.

PHATS:  How has being involved with PHATS and the annual meeting helped you professionally? 

RM: I love heading to the PHATS/SPHEM meetings every summer. It gives me a chance to hang out and speak to any trainer from any league.  Anyone who reads this may laugh as I have been known to buzz around a room shaking hands and speaking to everyone.  I also love all the education sessions, in my opinion there is always something new to learn.

PHATS:  What is your favorite NHL city to visit on the road and why?

RM: There are many great cities to travel to, but I have to say Nashville is my favorite, live music on the streets, the energy in that building wow.  Great atmosphere.

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

RM: My most memorable in the AHL would be going to the finals in 2009.

In 2015 I was fortunate enough to travel to Prague for the IIHF World Hockey Championships where we won gold.  That experience was incredible.

My most memorable in the NHL would be playing in the conference finals in 2018.

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

RM: In 2001 I went down to see Jim Ramsay and the New York Rangers for a week as a student, so easy to say, Rammer was my first NHL mentor.  Even though my time in New York was brief, as everyone knows, Rammer leaves a lasting impression.

My biggest mentor for sure would be Mike Burnstein.  He was the Head Athletic Therapist for the Canucks when I started with the MB Moose, so as their AHL affiliate we spoke a lot.  Burnie really helped me along, training me, guiding me, he recommended me for my job, and for all of that I thank him.

PHATS: What do you and your family look forward to in the off-season?

RM: Me and my family love to travel.  We love all sorts of travel, either we jump in our camper and travel the country, or we jump on a plane and go out and see some history.  We have been fortunate over the years to have been to many locations, Prague, Rome, Paris, Mexico, Dominican Republic, the list goes on.

Tell us a little about yourself:

RM: My favorite pastimes are hunting and cooking. Which go hand in hand, I think.  I love making all sorts of cuisine.  My families’ favorites are for sure my smoked wild duck breast wood fired pizza, BBQ ribs and fresh pasta, especially ravioli and sweet potato gnocchi.  I also like to collect BBQ’s, I currently have 7 that I am constantly cooking on.  

All photos courtesy of Rob Milette

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