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