Dave Williams, Head Equipment Manager, Buffalo Sabres

SPHEM: What got you started in the equipment profession and how did you get your start in Professional Hockey?

DW: I attended SUNY Plattsburgh and the hockey coach, Bob Emery, asked me if I would like to be the student equipment manager for the team in the 1992 season.  The team bought a sharpener, riveter and a Sport-O-quip trunk and I basically learned the job as I went.  Plattsburgh has always had a strong program and being a part of it is something I will always cherish.   After graduating in 1995 with a business management degree I really had nothing planned.  I worked for the hockey shop in Rochester NY, Locker Room Sports, among other jobs.   In November of 95 I received a call from the head coach of the ECHL Knoxville Cherokees, Barry Smith.  The equipment manager quit 7 games into the season.  A player on Knoxville was a former teammate at Plattsburgh and he recommended me for the job.   The offer was $350 a week, an apartment and a place to eat whenever I wanted to.  I stunned my parents when I hung up and said I’m moving to Tennessee.  I was with the team a few days later, and my first day was a game day.  They had an EZ Sharp skate machine.  I had only ever used a Blademaster.  Let’s just say the first few pairs may have needed a redo.  

SPHEM: You have been with the Sabres organization since 2005.  What was the transition like coming from their AHL affiliate the Rochester Americans?

DW: It was the first year after the NHL labor stoppage.  There were many things being reevaluated around the entire hockey landscape. A few other teams equipment guys and trainers made the jump up that season.   But I had been with Rochester since 1998 so I had worked many training camps in Buffalo.  I was familiar with the players, staff and arena.  We had a good team that year, came close to making the finals.  Many good memories.

SPHEM:  You worked very closely with Sabres long-time Head Equipment Manager Rip Simonick.  What is a lesson or piece of advice he’s given you that you feel gave you the most growth in your career?

DW:   Because Rip has been a part of all 50 years of Sabres hockey there are very few people around the league that haven’t heard of him.  He has introduced me to so many people I may have never had the opportunity to know. His passion for the Buffalo Sabres and the game of hockey is something that is and was felt by players, staff and family.  So his acceptance of me to be added to the staff and work along side of him has been the lesson.  And if you know Rip, you know he is a great story teller.  I still learn something everyday.      

Dave Williams of the Buffalo Sabres of the Colorado Avalanche at First Niagara Center on March 14, 2012 in Buffalo, New York.

SPHEM:  This year saw the unprecedented pause to the NHL season.  What was that like for you in Buffalo? 

DW:  We were in Montreal the day the work stoppage began.  I got notified the game was cancelled before pregame skate, and of course everyone was on alert wondering what we were going to do.  Staff went back to the hotel, as me, George and Ben started packing up.   We had no plane in Montreal at the time to fly home with, but I still needed to contact Montreal’s truck guy Pierre and explain he needed to be ready, eventually we were leaving.    We ended up flying home that night at 7PM.   In the beginning everyone felt like we would see each other after the weekend.   Well come Monday morning news hit that the borders may be closing, so like every where else, we had a quick team pack up and let players take their gear home.  We were not part of the NHL restart so things in Buffalo have been quiet this Summer and Fall.  

SPHEM:   The 2020-2021 season is hopefully starting in January of 2021.  With all the uncertainty of these times, how do you prepare for the season? 

DW: When ever the next season begins Buffalo will be wearing a new uniform, so that has kept me busy ordering and receiving new uniforms and apparel.  As for player specific items I have been only ordering things that I know we can still use whether we start in January or next Fall. Mostly stock product.  When custom items are necessary, I have cut normal quantities down by 50%.  Once I know a hard restart date, then I will get things ordered as usual. 

When possible, I have requested longer net terms for invoicing.  I do foresee challenges when we realize an official start date.  Companies will be flooded with orders, and players will be looking to get back up to speed as well.   But after living through these past 7 months, I would like to think everyone will be happy that were back to working and a small delay may not seem so monumental.

SPHEM:  You serve on SPHEM’s Executive Committee as Treasurer.  Why was it important to you to get involved and how has it benefited you?

DW:  I have been attending meetings since 1995.  I can remember being in the opening meeting in Orlando that year and the group was speaking about starting a joint venture committee.  Creating SPHEM on its own to work along side PHATS.  I had zero idea what was even happening. Too think now I am sitting up front at that meeting is still a little surreal.

But now I have seen the evolution of both societies.  We have come along way.  And when I was approached by Pete Rogers a few years back to start assisting with the education seminars and the golf tournament I was happy to give it a try. I have enjoyed it so far.  Now as treasurer it has allowed me to reach out to the entire NHL SPHEM membership with more than just hockey talk.  I’ve also learned a few things about corporate taxes, truly exciting stuffJ.

SPHEM:  PHATS/SPHEM is gearing up to host our conference in 2021.  With the cancelation of our 2020 meeting in mind, what did you miss most about this year’s conference and what are you looking forward to in 2021?

DW:  Well…as treasurer, let me say the cancellation of the 2020 meeting has impacted our entire way of thinking.  Plans, schedules, dates, budgets, communications all being reevaluated and possibly tweaked one way or another.  So, what did I miss most? I would say the entire normal conference.    As for 2021 in Phoenix, I hope we can continue to grow our attendance and provide ways for our members and vendors to work and socialize. 

SPHEM:  Do you have a professional mentor or Equipment Manager you admire?

DW:   I think there is something unique in all of us that work in sports.  None of us want to miss family and friends, or go to bed at 3am and up at 6, etc.   But we all have a dedication to our craft.  And I admire people that take pride in their work and put in the time to be at there best.

So, when we recognize members for 3000+ games or vendors for 30+ years, I really appreciate what it took, not only putting in the time, but dealing with the many ups and downs one would have experienced in a career of sports.   

SPHEM:  What is one thing other Members would be surprised to know about you? 

Well, I do not consider myself to have done anything special. However, I do take pride in working in the NCAA, ECHL, AHL and NHL.  

Tell us about yourself, your family and your hobbies.

I enjoy learning about investing and the stock market. Someday I would love the chance to run my own business or rental property.  I am from Rochester, NY and still live there today.   My wife Tammy and I have a son Maxwell, he is a Senior and a daughter Marni, she is a Sophomore.   During the Summer we enjoy using our jet ski and traveling around upstate NY.   If I can find the time in the Fall, I enjoy hunting.   

All photos courtesy of Dave Williams

Andy Hosler, Head Athletic Trainer, Nashville Predators

PHATS: What made you want a career in the athletic training profession and how did you get your start?

AH: During undergrad, I was watching a Red Wings game and saw “some guy” run out due to an injured player being down on the ice.  I thought how great it would be to be able to watch hockey for a living.  I was also leaning towards the medical profession which led me to athletic training/sports med.

PHATS: You’ve had 15 years of experience in Professional Hockey but come from a background of working with athletes in many different sports.   What are the advantages of working with all different types of athletes?

AH: I always knew I wanted to end up working in hockey but was required to be exposed to a lot of sports during undergrad.  I came from a small internship program and I wanted to work as much as I could, which put me working multiple teams.  Being in a small program was conducive to having the ability to work multiple sports over a semester.  I think the advantage is seeing different types of injuries and working with different types of athletes.  Some things I have picked up from other sports have been useful for my current position. 

PHATS:  Nashville finished up their 2019-2020 season in the “Bubble”.  What surprised you most about life in the bubble?

AH: I think the biggest surprise was how well it was managed up there.  The chaos leading into the bubble was a bit overwhelming at times, but once there, the Docs in Edmonton did a great job and it seemed a bit easier.  We were able to focus more on hockey and less on COVID policies and procedures.

PHATS:  Will you change how you prepare for the 2020-2021 season as a result of the time you spent in the Bubble?

AH: I don’t think I would change much of my preparation.  I think it’s a matter of feeling a bit more at ease because we, as an organization, have gone through it already.  I think knowing that things change quite rapidly puts me in a different mindset.  Going with the flow more often then sticking with a plan.  I may be more fluid with my planning, knowing that it may change.

PHATS:  Nashville is a favorite city to visit for many!  When the season and travel resume what would you recommend a visiting staff does if they have some time to see the sites?

AH: With COVID I have avoided anything to do with crowds and found outdoor areas a bit more appealing.  The obvious answer is whatever new Country Bar has opened on Broadway but I’m a big fan of Radnor Lake, Edwin Warner, and Centennial Park (the Parthenon).  If you’re into Country Music, the Country Music Hall of Fame is a must or even a tour of Ryman Auditorium is pretty cool too.

PHATS:  For those just starting out as athletic trainers, what is the best piece of advice you were given when you began your career?  

AH: Athletic Training has changed so much over the years even since I started 20 years ago.  One thing I learned fast when starting out is to be seen and not heard, work hard and don’t complain about the grind.  I was also told to only take positions that will challenge you and advance your skills verses just taking something that seems appealing but potentially mind-numbing.

PHATS: What advances in your profession have been the most beneficial to you?

AH: The biggest advancement in my skills have occurred because I had to deal with things that I have never experienced.  Being in the position of not knowing how to deal with something created quick learning situations that have stuck with me over the years.  In regards to courses; I’d say Dr. Ma’s Integrated Dry Needling Course was a game changer. 

PHATS:  Do you have a professional mentor or Athletic Trainer you admire?

AH: One of my first Hockey Mentors was Dave Carrier, previous Michigan State Hockey ATC.  He helped me through a lot of situations while in the minors.  Dan Redmond, my previous boss in Nashville, taught me a lot about the NHL.  We didn’t see eye to eye all the time but I built a lot of my knowledge base off of what he did all of those years.  I admire many NHL ATCs, especially the guys that have extended past the 20-30 year mark.  I find that pretty amazing as the grind seems heavier each year.  I have had a lot of other mentors during my transition into being an NHL Head ATC that have given sound advice over the years and am grateful for it. 

PHATS:  What is one thing other Members would be surprised to know about you?

AH: An odd, somewhat uninteresting fact is that I built and developed a Self-Filtering Hydrocollator that is still patent pending and likely will never officially be patented due to manufacturer interest and expense.

Tell us about yourself, your family and your hobbies.

I’ve been married since 2012 and have a 7 and 2-year-old.  I enjoy building/home projects and woodworking.  Love golf and beer league hockey but haven’t done it much over the years.  I’ve also gotten into Fantasy Football over the last few years. 

All photos courtesy of Andy Hosler

Rich Stinziano, Head Athletic Trainer, Buffalo Sabres

PHATS: What made you want a career in the athletic training profession and how did you get your start?

RS: My parents had season tickets for Syracuse University football at the Carrier Dome back in my hometown of Syracuse NY. Watching the athletic trainers take care of the athletes on the sidelines was interesting to me- I said I’m going to do that one day.

While I was working as a physical therapist/athletic trainer for a clinic in Buffalo, I also took care of a Jr B ice hockey team- the Wheatfield Blades.  The GM for the Blades, Greg DeSantis at the time was the son-in-law of the goaltending coach for the NJ Devils, Jacques Caron.  The Devils were looking for an athletic trainer.  I met with Jacques who introduced me to Lou Lamoriello. I went through their interview process & was hired soon after.  Many thanks to Greg, Jacques & Lou for giving me the chance!

PHATS: Can you speak to returning to Buffalo in 2016 after 10 seasons with the New Jersey Devils?   What was that transition like?

RS: It was an unexpected & interesting opportunity to return to my “roots”-since I went to college at the University at Buffalo for undergrad in athletic training & graduate school for physical therapy.  I had a network of family, friends & colleagues established in Buffalo.

The GM for New Jersey at the time was Ray Shero. He pulled me aside and told me that the GM for the Buffalo Sabres (at the time was Tim Murray) called to ask if I’d be interested in getting back to Buffalo to work with the Sabres organization.  I told Ray, it doesn’t cost anything to talk.  The rest is history.

The transition was with mixed emotions.  Sad to leave an organization that had treated me well for 10 seasons but excited to be closer to family, friends and the chance to work with old colleagues again.

PHATS:  Having been a part of two NHL Clubs, what advice can you give to a Member who might one-day make that transition?  

RS: Each day is a transition and EVERYTHING can and will change.  Do not fear the challenges that come with change.  You will adapt and overcome these challenges.   Use them as a learning experience. Lastly, never burn bridges- you never know if you will have to cross them again.

PHATS:  You reached 1,000 games earlier this season, congratulations!  What does this accomplishment mean to you?   

RS: I guess I’m becoming one of the old dogs.   I am not one to count games but I realize how very fortunate I am to get to work with great people and top athletes with the support of my family.

PHATS:  Even though you don’t often get a lot of time in the cities you travel to, what is one of your favorite hockey cities to visit and why?

RS:  Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning as I get to visit with family.

PHATS:   As we are gearing up for the 2020 Conference, what is one course you took that you felt changed how you work the most, and why?

RS: Every year there are courses that change how I work. We as professionals must continue to change and adapt to new ideas and technology.  We must continue to grow as practitioners in our profession.

PHATS: What advances in your profession have been the most beneficial to you?

RS:   From player data collection of workloads etc. and how we use it for mental health, nutritional and rehabilitative aspects.  There are advances all the time in the evolution of technology and science and its ever changing.

PHATS:  Do you have a professional mentor or Athletic Trainer/Therapist you admire?

RS: Mike Adesso was my mentor and boss through my college clinical years as an athletic trainer & physical therapist.  I got the chance to work with him again when I made the move to Buffalo.

PHATS:  What is one thing other Members would be surprised to know about you?

RS: I’ve never played ice hockey.

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I enjoy spending time with family and friends and traveling with my wife Jen, our daughter Olivia and Bailey, our Boxer/Labrador. I enjoy golfing in the off-season.

All photos courtesy of Rich Stinziano

Joel Farnsworth, Head Equipment Manager, St. Louis Blues

SPHEM: What got you started in the equipment profession and how did you get your start in Professional Hockey?

JF: I got started in the equipment profession as a student manager for the University of Vermont hockey team in 1995.  My neighbors in the dorm were on the hockey team, we became close friends, which eventually lead to me working for the team.  In 1996, the New York Rangers started coming to Burlington for training camp, and they needed an extra pair of hands, particularly with the laundry, since we didn’t have a towel service available.  I worked the next 4 years of training camp, offering whatever help I could.  In the summer of 2001, Cass contacted me to see if I would be interested in getting my foot in the door of professional hockey as the assistant equipment manager in Hartford, working with Jason Levy, and the rest is history!

SPHEM: You have been with the Blues organization since the 2002-03 season working for their AHL affiliates in Peoria and Worcester before joining the Blues in 2009.  What are the benefits to working with different levels of an NHL Club’s organization? 

JF: I would say the biggest benefit is being able to build relationships from the bottom up, gaining trust and respect along the way by working hard and helping the organization in whatever capacity that you can.  I have been very fortunate to be able to stay in one organization for almost 20 years.  I would also say that working your way up from the minors within one organization also gives you a greater appreciation for the time you get to spend in the NHL. 

SPHEM:  If you could go back to 2002-03 what would you tell your younger self?

JF:  I would say the biggest thing I would tell my younger self is: Patience.  You aren’t going to get to the NHL your first year working in this business, you can’t solve every problem instantly, so have patience, and persistence.  Work hard and enjoy the ride.

SPHEM:  The St. Louis Blues had an incredible turnaround last season, culminating in winning the Stanley Cup!  What was that experience like for you? 

JF: It was an absolute whirlwind experience last season.  To have gone from the depths of standings in January, to the top in June, was totally unexpected, exhilarating and incredible all in a stretch of 5 months.   It was awesome to watch our players, coaches and trainers come together and believe in one another so strongly.  Having never worked the Finals before personally, I was extremely fortunate to have Rich Matthews working along side of me as well, his experience in previous Finals was so helpful throughout our playoff run.  The entire staff worked so hard, and it was such an incredibly rewarding feeling getting to lift the Cup.    

SPHEM:   What did you do on your day with the Cup?

JF:  My day with the Cup started by surprising the workers at Liebe, our jersey customizer’s factory, it was great getting to see so many smiles on their faces.  Then we headed to my children’s school for a couple of hours.  We went to each of my children’s classrooms, then surprised a few other teachers and classrooms before taking a school wide photo out on the playground.  Then we had an open house for some friends and family, before ending the night with a private function for our closest friends and family.  It was an incredible day, that included eating Ben and Jerry’s from the Cup and lots of smiles!

SPHEM:  In your opinion, what has been the greatest technological advance in equipment?  Is there something you’d still like to see?

JF: Without question to me, the single greatest advancement in hockey equipment in my time working in the sport is the evolution of the removable skate blade.  To be able to change out a damaged blade on the bench, and have the player never miss a shift is such a massive leap from where we were just a few years ago even.  Beyond that, I think the constantly evolving science behind sticks is incredible.  I also think the increased attention to shot blocking, and the various protective strategies that are constantly improving are going to be an area that we see incredible advancement in the coming seasons. 

SPHEM:  Even though you don’t often get much time in the cities you travel to, what is one of your favorite hockey cities to visit and why?

JF:  I really enjoy visiting Nashville as a big country music fan.  I also think it is incredible how much the atmosphere of the building in Nashville has improved over the seasons.  It is also one of the closest cities to St Louis, so we tend to have a lot of fans travel there for games, which adds to the atmosphere.   Having Partner (Craig Baugh) helping in the room is always a great experience too!

SPHEM:  Do you have a professional mentor or Equipment Manager you admire?

JF:   There isn’t a single equipment manager or professional mentor, because in all honesty, I have learned a tremendous amount from every single coworker and peer that I have been fortunate enough to cross paths with during my career.  However, I would be remiss to not mention Cass for giving me my first opportunity in professional hockey, and his willingness to offer advice or guidance whenever asked.  I also need to mention Al Coates, who was my GM in Hartford, who has always been great with guidance and an encouraging word as well.  Rich Villani with the NHL has been incredibly helpful as well, always offering a suggestion or a helping hand when he can.   We are so fortunate in this industry to have so many selfless people, that are always willing to lend a helping hand. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself… Away from the rink I try to spend as much time as I can with my wife Angie, and our 2 kids, Abby and Joel.  We all enjoy watching movies, playing board games and watching sports together as a family.  I also try to spend some time each summer working on my antique farm tractor.

All photos courtesy of Joel Farnsworth

Tony Da Costa, Head Equipment Manager, Minnesota Wild

SPHEM: What got you started in the equipment profession and how did you get your start in Professional Hockey.

TD: When I was 13 the Winnipeg Jets practices were open to the public. I would go all the time and I met Pat O?Neil who was the Assistant Equipment Manager for the Jets. I would ask him if I could help and I just started going to as many practices and games that I could.  I never would?ve thought that I would be doing this for a living. I wanted to play in the NHL like every other Canadian kid. I just kept working my way up from dressing room attendant and then becoming one of the Assistants for the Jets.

SPHEM: Tell us about your time with Winnipeg when the team moved to Phoenix.  What was something you learned being part of that transition that has helped you since.

TD: I was fortunate to be part of the staff from Winnipeg to move with the team to Phoenix.  We weren?t an expansion team but it was a new NHL team start up. This definitely helped me when I got the Head Equipment job in Minnesota.

SPHEM: You?ll reach 2,000 games this year, congratulations!  What does this accomplishment mean to you?   

TD: The biggest thing in reaching 2000 games is that you have to love doing what you do. I have a real passion for hockey and I still love doing what I do.

SPHEM:  You gave us a tour of your new practice facility last year.  After some time in the new space what improvements have you found the most beneficial?  

TD: The biggest benefit is now having a place to go to everyday rather that hitting different local rinks to practice at. We move enough equipment on the road and it has been great not having to do it at home anymore.

SPHEM:   Travel is such a huge part of this profession.  What is one of your favorite hockey cities to visit and why?

TD: I love going to Vancouver and Montreal. They are great cities and the environment at the games is unreal.

SPHEM:  What skills do you think a young equipment manager would need in today?s fast changing world of professional hockey?

TD:  I think the biggest skill is to be able to be open to change and manage the different personalities of the players and management. Players need a lot more these days and that adds more pressure to the job.

SPHEM:  What advice would you give your younger self if you were just starting in professional hockey?

TD: I think that if I knew earlier that this s a great career to be in I would?ve taken this job more serious earlier.

SPHEM:  Do you have a professional mentor or Equipment Manager you admire?

TD:   Yes I have 3 people that I look up to. Pat O?Neil because he got me into this.

Craig (Zinger) Heizinger for allowing me to grow in my job and Stan Wilson for teaching me so much and getting me ready to be a Head guy in the NHL. I learned different things from all of them.

SPHEM:  What is one thing other Members would be surprised to know about you?

TD: I think that I am a hockey nerd. I watch a lot of hockey and I always know what?s going on in the league. I can?t get enough.  I am also into cars ? anything that  I am driving is always for sale.

Tell us about yourself, your family and your hobbies.

I think that I am an easy going person and I love to have fun. I love the pranks that go on daily and a lot of the time I am part of them.

I have been married for 22 years and with my wife June for 30 years.  We have 2 daughters, Summer is in her second year of college and Rylee is in 8th grade.

I enjoy working out, golfing and riding motorcycles.

Photos courtesy of Tony Da Costa

Jon Sanderson, Head Athletic Therapist, Vancouver Canucks

PHATS: What made you want a career in the athletic training profession and how did you get your start?

JS: It was a way to combine sports medicine and stay involved as part of a team. Like a lot of us I started out by volunteering and helping out wherever I could to get experience.

PHATS: You were previously with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.  What is something you learned while working in Football that you?ve brought to the hockey world that you may not have seen without that experience?   

JS: The staff then was Billy, Kato, Red, me and Bob Park, who was the strength guy. 5 people to look after a football team and coaching staff, if one of the 5 of us didn?t do it then it didn?t get done. You learn to work hard and be part of a group. We had a great time though, Red and I still laugh about it.

PHATS: How do you see the role of the athletic trainer in professional hockey changing in the next 5-10 years?

JS: It?s so specialized now that day to day treatment, long term rehab, movement screening/correctives, dealing with each players individual ?team?, monitoring other players in the organization, dealing with doctors, specialists, insurance? these and others will be individual areas that the Head Athletic Trainer manages and coordinates under the umbrella of the Medical Department. That and on ice emergency care during games.

PHATS:  You?ll reach 1,500 games this year, congratulations!  What does this accomplishment mean to you?   

JS: That I?ve been fortunate to work with great people, the best part about this job is we do it together.

PHATS:  Travel is such a huge part of this profession.  What is one of your favorite hockey cities to visit and why?

JS:  Chicago, you can walk to all the shopping and restaurants downtown.  The United Center is great to work in and the atmosphere is like no other city. And Pippens.

PHATS:   Can you recommend any type of schooling, courses, or training that would benefit a young athletic trainer trying to break into this field given the way sports has changed so much over the years?

JS: Some sort of people managing skills and customer service. We?re now in the people business/service industry, athletic training is just the medium that we use.

PHATS: You are a regular at our conferences, besides the educational component, what would you say you benefit from most by attending year after year?

JS: The informal conversations with other Trainers. We all have similar jobs but it?s always interesting to hear how other teams problem solve and adapt to their particular situation. I always learn something that can make our staff better.

PHATS:  Do you have a professional mentor or Athletic Trainer/Therapist you admire?

JS: When I was going to school at Sheridan for Athletic Therapy I came home every summer to work.  My first summer back I called Billy with the Lions because I knew he was a Sheridan grad and asked if I could help out to get some experience. Every summer he let me do everything from treatments to taping, while I was there I watched how he ran the training room, how he interacted with coaches and players and how he handled difficult situations, he taught me what it takes to be a trainer in pro sports. I was lucky he took time for me, he?s not just a great trainer, he?s a special person.

PHATS:  What is one thing other Members would be surprised to know about you?

JS: I?m an open book.

Tell us about yourself, your family and your hobbies.

Married to my wife Catherine, we have 2 kids, Kate and Cooper and a dog named Bob.  I grew up in Vancouver and enjoy playing golf in the summer.

Photos courtesy of Jon Sanderson.

By Mike Aldrich
Head Equipment Manager, San Jose Sharks

SPHEM: What got you started in the equipment profession and how did you get your start in professional hockey?

MA: I got started at Michigan Tech.  I used to take stats for the hockey team.  The hockey coach (Herb Boxer) at the time encouraged me to apply for the Equipment Manager position because the person was retiring.  I knew a lot of people in the Athletic Department because I spent many years going to hockey school there when I was a kid.  At that time, my full-time job was in the mailroom at the Michigan Tech.

My start in professional hockey was ironic.  I had applied at Denver University and had multiple phone conversations with Head Coach Frank Serratore. I remember one day one of the students that worked for me at MTU left me a ?while you were out? message that Doug Soetaert, the GM of the Kansas City Blades had called.  I never thought that the reason he would be calling was about a job opening. I later found out that Frank was nice enough to give my name to Doug knowing that my goal was to work professional hockey some day.

SPHEM:You have been with the San Jose Sharks since 1996.  What can you attest your longevity with the organization?

MA: Relationships with people for sure. It works both ways ? I work for a strong organization that cares a lot about people. It is essential that you stay ahead of what is happening in our industry. I have been able to keep up and even stay ahead of the changes.  It isn?t enough to just roll with the changes.

SPHEM: You will reach 2000 games this year.  Congratulations.  What does this accomplishment mean to you?

MA: I have never been a game counter.  I often have to think when people ask me how long I have been doing this and then realize it has been 20 something years. I can?t do this without the support I get at home.  This is a family business as far as I am concerned.  You don?t work 2000 games without a lot of support and I am just happy to share the experience with my wife and family.

SPHEM: San Jose Sharks hosted the all-star game this year.  What was your favorite part of being the host city?

MA: It?s clich?, but there wasn?t one favorite part ? there were many.

The last time SJ had an All-Star game was in 1997.  I was the Equipment Manager and Razor was the Athletic Trainer so we have been able to work both of them in SJ together. 

The best parts were: Having my wife, brother, nephew and son here to share the experience; Meeting players and coaches from other teams; Working with my peers from Buffalo, George and Willie, and Pete from the Red Wings.

SPHEM: What was the most challenging part?

MA: The All- Star game really is an Equipment Manager?s event so being the host team comes with a lot of responsibility. Our facility was the most challenging part.  The Sharks equipment staff managed to overcome the challenges.  Vinny, Roy, Johnny, Norma and the game night equipment staff really kept things running smoothly.

SPHEM: What is the one lesson you learned as an equipment manager that gave you the most growth in your career?

MA: Treating all the players and staff the same.  I can?t really say exactly how I learned that but it is something that I stick to every day. 

SPHEM: You are a fixture at the PHATS/SPHEM conference each year. For someone new to SPHEM, what do you think is your biggest take away from the meetings?

MA: It is hands down ? no questions asked – the networking with your peers and the vendors.  It?s priceless to get that time together to see and hear what other people are doing. Building the relationships amongst our peers is essential for the growth of our society. My advice for someone new is to never miss an opportunity to shake hands and introduce yourself to someone from this group.

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

Tommy Woodcock ? taught me how a locker room works ? how the blood flows through the locker room. He also taught me how we have to stick together.

Wayne Thomas ? He knew how to have fun yet made sure you knew how to act professionally.

Doug Soetaert ? He taught me how to take care of the tools that are provided to you from management and ownership.  He also taught me how to manage and follow a budget.

Ted Kearly (Michigan Tech Athletic Director)? he commanded respect the way I wanted.  He was nice to everyone and treated everyone the same.  He was classy and taught me how to be a pro.

Kody Moffat and Razor (athletic trainers) ? taught me the importance of working together and getting along to be successful.

SPHEM: When not at the rink, what would we find you doing?

MA: During the season when there is down time, I enjoy going to the coast. In the off-season I spend my time in Michigan with family and friends.

SPHEM: Tell us a little bit more about yourself?

MA: I was raised in the small town of Hancock, Michigan.  It is the place that I call home and still love to be whenever time permits. My wife- Susie- was also raised in Hancock and grew up in a hockey family. I have 2 grown sons: Brad and Jason. Brad lives in Hancock and is the CEO of OcuGlass ? a glass manufacturing company. In 2010, Brad worked for the Chicago Blackhawks and was part of the Stanley Cup winning team. Jason lives in Duluth, MN and is the Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth?s men?s and women?s hockey.  This year Jason celebrated UMD winning the 2019 NCAA Men?s Hockey National Championship at the Frozen Four in Buffalo, NY.  The hockey world has been good to our family and has given us so many great memories. When not around hockey, we enjoy time at our home on the lake in Hancock –  we love waterskiing, paddle boarding and spending time with family and friends.

Mike Vogt, Head Athletic Trainer, Columbus Blue Jackets

PHATS: What made you want a career in the athletic training profession and how did you get your start?

MV: I originally wanted to become a PT, but after working in a clinic and hospital through college, I realized I needed to be involved with sports and a team.  I had played sports my whole life and really missed being a part of a team.  I felt athletic training was perfect for me.

PHATS: Tell us about your transition from being an Assistant Athletic Trainer with Minnesota to becoming the Head Trainer with the Columbus Blue Jackets

MV: It was an easier transition for me because I had worked with, and knew well, the team physicians for CBJ.  I also had experience as a head athletic trainer in the WNBA and an athletic trainer with the University of Minnesota Men?s Hockey Team, which meant I had to handle all aspects, like a head athletic trainer, for the team.

PHATS:  You bring experience from not only the NHL, but the NCAA and the WNBA.    How has experience in other leagues and sports enriched your career?

MV: I have been very fortunate in my career and am very thankful to have had many opportunities to learn and grow as a person and professional.  My experiences from other leagues has enabled me to take a wide range of learning experiences in many different environments and use them in a positive way to become better, not only an athletic trainer, but as a person.

PHATS:  For those just starting out as athletic trainers, what is the best piece of advice you were given when you began your career?  

MV: You never know what will happen?what will lead to something else.  You should always do the best job you can no matter what position you have. Never stop trying to learn and improve.  I feel very lucky; but learned that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so make the most of every opportunity afforded you.

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

MV: I feel open discussion with other health care providers, practicing known techniques, and learning new things from others is very important.  Being involved with PHATS has helped me in those areas.  It is also an opportunity for me to share my experiences and knowledge.

PHATS:  What is your biggest satisfaction of the job?

MV: Helping athletes achieve their goals while being a part of a team.

PHATS: What is your biggest challenge of the job?

MV: Time?it?s very valuable and it?s hard to control.  Athletic trainers have to be very good planners so they can maximize their time between family, job, and self.

PHATS:  How do you balance the demands of this job with your family life? 

MV:  I do my best to plan ahead but most importantly, I am so unbelievably blessed to have a wonderful wife who understands the demands of the job.  She runs the whole household, while working full time herself, without me.  I couldn?t do this job without her!

PHATS:  What other Athletic Trainers do you admire? Why?

MV: Don Fuller?he showed me the way early on and is my mentor.  If it wasn?t for him, I wouldn?t be here.

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

MV: Family, plain and simple.  It is a time for me to recharge the batteries and get back to my life, my family.

PHATS: Tell us a little bit more about yourself?

MV: I’m from Canton, Ohio.  I am married to Monica and have two children, Cole (11) and Olivia (9).  Both kids are very active with sports and school activities.  A lot of our time, especially my wife, is spent driving kids to sporting events.  In the summer, we try to travel and be as active outside as possible.  I like to fish, hike, and travel with my family.

By T.D. Forss
Head Athletic Therapist, Edmonton Oilers

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

TF: I always thought that I did not want a desk job that required me to wear a suit and tie all day, so after high school I went into Physical Education at the University of Alberta. During my first year, I had to do a number of required courses and two were Anatomy and Introduction to Athletic Therapy. I loved both classes and decided that

Athletic Therapy was what I wanted to focus on. I completed my Bachelor of Physical Education and my Master of Arts degrees then wrote the Canadian Athletic Therapist Association (CATA) exam.

As for professional hockey, while I was working in the Western Hockey League for the Spokane Chiefs, Morris Boyer who was the Head Athletic Therapist for the Calgary Flames called and asked if I would be interested in interviewing for their Assistant Athletic Therapist position. I went to Calgary for the interview and was offered the job. I worked 2 seasons in Calgary and then was hired as the Head Athletic Therapist for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League. I worked 7 seasons for the Eskimos and then was offered the Head Athletic Therapist position for the Edmonton Oilers where I have worked for the past 9 years.

PHATS: You worked for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. How has your work in football helped you with the Oilers?

TF: Football was a great learning experience. If there is an injury that can happen in sports it happens in football. You have athletes of many different heights, weights and athletic ability. It has athletes that are throwers, athletes that kick and athletes that run and jump. You get to see both traumatic injuries and overuse injuries. On top of that, you have over 60 professional athletes that you need to take care of.


PHATS: What skills, that you learned in football, do you use with the Oilers?

TF: For me the biggest skills I learned was organization and communication. With the large number of athletes and the different parts of the team (offense, defense and special teams) it was important to make sure, you knew who was going to be available to practice and play each week. With the large number of coaches that are part of a football team it was important to be able to let each coach know who would be healthy enough to play and practice. I also had a group of 5 physicians and 2 assistant therapists that I needed to make sure were updated on player injuries and I also had to coordinate who would have which roles during practices and games.

PHATS: What would you say has changed the most about being an AT since you started in 1994 with the Spokane Chiefs?

TF: I feel there a number of things that have changed. For example, the athletes, the expectations, the education and experience required and the technology involved. Early in my career athletes would just do whatever you ask when you are were treating their injuries. Today?s athletes like to know why they are doing what you are asking them to do and how it makes them get better.

The expectations from players, coaches and management has increased over the years. Players expect our teams to have all the rehab and medical tools readily available to prevent injuries and to rehab them when they are injured. Coaches and managers expect a very small window of error when we are making medical decisions. Whether that be, can a player play with an injury or when is their return to play date?

When I began this profession, most of the athletic therapists/ athletic trainers had their bachelor degree and many were 20 certified. Now, all of the athletic therapists / athletic trainers in the NHL have their Bachelor degrees, are certified and each year more and more have their Masters? degree.

The technology that is available currently is endless. Items that have been implemented include electronic medical record keeping (AHMS), concussion assessment on iPads and collection of player data (functional movement screen, force plates, heart rate variability, wearable technology, video analysis? ).

PHATS: You are on the PHATS Executive Committee. What made you want to join the committee?

TF: I would say that I have always liked helping others throughout my career. Prior to coming to the NHL, I was fortunate to work with executives and colleagues on league initiatives. I like to be involved with and try to foster the development and improvement of each league and its members.

PHATS: What do you feel is the biggest benefit to attending the PHATS/ SPHEM Conference each year?

TF: There is a variety of benefits for attending the PHATS/SPHEM conference.

Some of the main ones would be education and reviewing what the current research is on various topics, collaboration with peers on challenges, talking and exchanging ideas in a social setting to get to know the other members, strength coaches, suppliers and their families.

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

TF: My parents Bernice and Hal Forss for showing me what it means to be a good person. Coach Bill Moores for introducing me to the University of Alberta Golden Bears and what is required for success in any aspect of your life. Pete Friesen for his passion for people and teaching others. Mike Babcock for his support and life lessons. My children Katelin and Liana for keeping me grounded. Most importantly, my wife Monica for her unconditional love for me and our children all through this crazy life we have built.

PHATS: What is the best advice you?ve received on being an Athletic Therapist?

TF: To do the right thing. By following this you are able to keep your integrity and maintain the respect of others. Your players and colleagues will always know what they will get when dealing with you and that you have their best interest as a focus. This in turn shows them you care and are there to help them.

PHATS: What is something you enjoy when not at the rink?

TF: I love spending time with my wife and children sharing a great meal at home, talking and listening about what is important to them and what is happening in their lives.

TD and his wife Monica live year round in Edmonton, Alberta. Their 21-year-old daughter Katelin is a senior at the University of Arizona and is currently a second year dancer with the Radio City Rockettes. Their 18-year-old daughter Liana is a freshman at Oklahoma City University, perusing a Bachelor of Music, majoring in musical theater. TD enjoys spending time with Monica watching their daughters perform, paring wine with food and travelling in the off- season.

Skip Cunningham
Equipment Manager, Carolina Hurricanes

SPHEM: What got you started in the equipment profession and how did you get your start in Professional Hockey?

SC: I was raised very close to the Northeastern University Athletic field. I hung out there quiet a bit and athletics became a huge part of my life.

I worked at Boston University before attending Northeastern University. It was at Northeastern that I met and worked for Jack Kelly who went on to be the Coach and General Manager of the WHA New England Whalers.

SPHEM: You?ve been an Equipment Manager for 45 years. What do you attest to your longevity in this career?

SC: I?d say I?m very blessed to be in this career for so long. I?d also say, I?ve had luck on my side. I?ve been lucky to stay a part of this organization with changes in ownership, management, coaches and locations and lucky to work with such great people.

SPHEM: The field has changed and advanced quite a bit since you started in 1972 with the New England Whalers. What change/advancement where you most happy to see?

SC: The equipment has become so much more advanced over the years. It?s lighter, easier to use and more protective for our players, which has been a real plus for this sport and decreased injuries.

SPHEM: Is there any change or advancement you?d still like to see?

SC: I would love to see less breakage in the sticks and equipment that is less costly. I also feel the helmet protection should catch up with other sports, i.e. Football.

SPHEM: You?ve worked with quite an impressive roster of players. Have any influenced your career for the better, if so how?

SC: I was fortunate to work with many! In the last year of the WHA we had, 4 Hall of Fame players, Gordie Howe, Mark Howe, Bobby Hull & Dave Keon, who was named the #1 Leaf of all-time. Not only were they great players, they were wonderful people. Getting to know some of the best players in the sport has definitely influenced my career for the better.

Being in the company of such great people, makes the job easier.

SPHEM: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the Hockey Equipment Management field?

SC: Listen, learn, and have a great rapport with your players.

SPHEM: What has been your most memorable moment as an Equipment Manager?

SC: Without question, winning the Stanley Cup!

SPHEM: What legacy would you like to leave in the Hockey world?

SC: I?d like to think I?ve established many great friendships, many of which have become like family.

David Ortiz & Skip with the Stanley Cup

Skip?s Grandchildren
Jayden, Ryan & Brayden

SPHEM: What is something most members would not know about you?

SC: I come from a baseball family! Hockey wasn?t originally my sport, baseball was. My cousin even played for the Los Angeles Angels for many years

Skip enjoys spending time with his grandkids on the baseball fields and hockey rinks. His favorite hobby is reading. He will read anything he can get his hands on? books, magazines, newspapers. He also enjoys hiking and going to church. He?s involved with collecting food & clothing for the homeless.