SPHEM Member Spotlight – Jason McMaster
Jason McMaster, Head Equipment Manager, Winnipeg Jets
SPHEM: What made you want a career in the equipment management profession and how did you get your start?
JM: Watching hockey growing up I would see the Athletic Therapists run onto the ice to care for the players when they were hurt on the ice. I knew at a young age I definitely was not going to make the NHL as a goaltender, so I turned my focus onto a potential lifelong career.
In Grade 12 I had a work experience with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. I worked with the Blades once per week for the entire school year. It was with this experience I quickly realized I enjoyed the equipment aspects of the job much more than the therapy side. After I graduated high school, I worked at a local sports store and with the Blades.
SPHEM: You joined the Jets in Winnipeg after their relocation from Atlanta in 2011. What do you remember most about preparing for that season?
JM: From the day I was offered the Head Equipment Manager position, the entire leadup to training camp was a blur. The lists were long, and the days were even longer, but the lead up to puck drop of the first ever Winnipeg Jets 2.0 regular season made it all worth it.
What I remember most is travelling to Atlanta and our training staff, Building Engineer and I inventoried every piece of equipment, furniture, medical, and strength items for Canada customs. Our building engineer and I drove the Equipment truck full of hockey equipment from Atlanta to Winnipeg. We had to pull over along the way in someone’s yard to ride out a Tornado storm through Iowa. Thankfully the tornadoes did not come near the yard.
SPHEM: What skills do you think Equipment Managers need today to excel in their sport, regardless of the league or level of play?
JM: I highly recommend anyone who wants to become an equipment manager to get some sort of business schooling. There is so much administrative and accounting work now. Along with this, you need to have a hard work ethic, positive attitude, good people skills, and “attention to detail”.
SPHEM: How do you think the role of Equipment Manager in pro hockey will change in the future? What would you like to see less of or more of?
JM: Director role. Oversee ordering, inventory, renovations, and budgeting for the NHL/AHL teams. Along with working with teams marketing and branding departments on new jersey creations. The rest of the equipment staff will do all the fun jobs! Sharpening, profiling, repairs, and player fitting, etc.
SPHEM: What is your most memorable professional moment as an equipment manager?
JM: It’s tough to pinpoint one exact moment. I would say all the different experiences I have been fortunate enough to experience. From my first NHL game, when I worked with the LA Kings, the first game of Winnipeg Jets 2.0, the 2017-18 playoff run, global series in Finland, 2014 world championship in Belarus, and working for Team Europe at 2016 World cup.
SPHEM: What would you say has been the best advancement in Equipment and what would you still like to see?
JM: Automated skate sharpeners (we don’t use one with the Jets currently but as technology continues to improve we will one day), equipment getting lighter to evolve with the speed of the game, and trigger steel.
Automated sharpener that produces the same feel/finish as our regular sharpeners do (Blademaster/Blackstone). I feel the automated machines currently, do an amazing job at maintaining the profiles and steel shapes. I just personally still prefer the finish on our regular machines.
SPHEM: Who have been your mentors over the years and what is the best professional advice they have given you?
JM: Steve Hildebrand (Saskatoon Blades), Larry Wintoneak (La Ronge IceWolves Coach), Tyler Broderson (Lethbridge Hurricanes Trainer), Craig Heisinger, Darren Granger & Pat O’Neil.
Their advice has been, pay attention to detail! Be organized, take pride in everything you do, and enjoy what you do.
SPHEM: What do you want your peers to know about you that they don’t already know?
JM: In the off season, my hobbies are doing yard work and landscaping, traveling and concerts.
Tell us a little about yourself:
Megan and I live in Winnipeg year-round. We have 2 dogs. Oro and Barlow.
We enjoy traveling every summer. We try to visit somewhere new each time we travel.
All photos courtesy of Jason McMaster.