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.