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

Hope this finds everyone doing well during this unprecedented time of the suspension and cancellation of our seasons. We hope that everyone is using this time to take care of their families and themselves. 

As we all know, the Covid-19 virus is a very fluid situation and, in our case, the PHATS/SPHEM Annual Meeting is a little under three months away.  At this time the meeting has not been officially cancelled, however we are in a holding pattern.  We know the personal strain this time has put on everyone and we are aware of the financial ramifications this has put on our valuable sponsors, vendors, members and teams.  We would encourage you to wait to register for the meeting, book flights or make hotel reservations until we can make final decisions in regards to our meeting in Orlando.We are continually monitoring the situation and relying on the information provided by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Infection) and WHO (World Health Organization) to monitor the status of Coronavirus itself as well as the response and best practices of our industry (exhibitions, meetings and events). 

We understand there are many questions and concerns. We assure you that we are considering all options, and nothing is more important than everyone’s health and safety. 

We look forward to honoring Peter Millar as the next PHATS/SPHEM Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.

Peter spent 11 years with the Edmonton Oilers as their Head Athletic Therapist winning four Stanley Cups.  After leaving Edmonton, he landed in Los Angeles as the Head Equipment Manager for the Los Angeles Kings Hockey Club. Peter spent the next 17 years in that position before moving on to his current position with Warrior Hockey. All in all, Peter has dedicated the last 42 years of his life to the world of professional hockey.Thank you all for your patience and be well.

 Darren and Chris

By Jason McMaster, Head Equipment Manager, Winnipeg Jets

The 2019 Heritage Classic in Regina was a great experience for our whole organization.  Saskatchewan is a very passionate hockey province, and embraced the opportunity to have an NHL outdoor game there. The city of Regina was a great host.  

The Saskatchewan Roughriders were generous enough to allow the Jets to use their home dressing room.  The Riders dressing room is outstanding.  They did a great job on their dressing room complex design when Mosaic stadium was built.

With the Riders dressing room facility being so large, with great stalls, we were able to dress the room up really nice with Jets signage.  I would like to personally thank Rob Baker from Pakmark who did an amazing job with all the decals and signage.

The atmosphere at the game could not have been any better.  From the fighter jets fly over after the national anthem, to the consistent snow fall throughout the game, and the chilly -12C temperature all making the game feel like a true Canadian outdoor experience.

This event would not have been possible without the help of the Saskatchewan Roughrider training staff, Winnipeg Jets Game night attendants, the Calgary Flames, and the NHL staff.  Thank you all!

Photos courtesy of Jason McMaster & the Winnipeg Jets.

By Brian Papineau, Head Equipment Manager, Toronto Maple Leafs

Why did the organization choose Newfoundland for their training camp location?

With our ECHL team (Newfoundland Growlers) based in St. John?s and the older AHL affiliation (St. John?s Maple Leafs from 1991-2005), the organization decided it was best to hold training camp there.

Is this the first time your team has held their training camp off-site?

Every year, the Maple Leafs like to hold training camp off-site to give the many fans from all over a chance to watch up close as the team prepares for another season. We have traveled to Halifax, NS twice and to Niagara Falls, ON as well. It also allows the players a chance to get away from our normal surroundings that we spend so much time at during the season and allows them to interact with the community as well as take in the sites and do some team bonding.

How much time did you have to prepare?

Originally, two members of our organization traveled to St. John?s 10 months prior to see the possibilities of holding training camp there. They viewed arena options and hotels and then about 6 or 7 of our staff from different departments went for a site visit around August 1st and that was a chance to meet some of the key contacts at the arenas, hotels, restaurants as well as the head of all the volunteers. We went through logistics and what our needs would be when we arrived in St. John?s.

What was the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was getting everything out there and making sure that we had enough room on the two chartered planes that we flew on. We pre-shipped many supplies like Gatorade and medical supplies early to free up space on the aircraft. We also ordered some of our supplies (water, tape and pucks) to be shipped directly to St. John?s so that we didn?t have to worry about taking it with us. The day we left, we had our Media Day in Toronto at our practice facility, so we had players wear their practice gear for the Media portion so that we had all the game gear packed ahead of time so that we could pre-load the planes and allow for a timely departure.

Would you do anything different having gone thru it?

I think everything went smooth for the most part as we spent the first three days at the practice facility in Paradise, NL and then moved into Mile One Stadium for three days and an exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators. Our day to day schedule is pretty much the same the past five years, so we kind of know what to expect and that makes planning easier while away.

What surprised you most about Newfoundland?

We have been to Newfoundland a few times over the years and we held a small portion of our training camp there back in 2001 during 9/11. You hear how wonderful and friendly the people are and how much they love their hockey and that was shown daily. The hockey office staff and trainers (Neil Davidson and Andrew Koch) from the Growlers were great hosts and took care of many details leading up to training camp. It also never hurts to have David Roper from Mount Pearl, NL on staff with the Maple Leafs. It didn?t matter what was needed, Ropes got it done.

Did you have a chance to tour Newfoundland? 

As I mentioned earlier, we did a site visit previously so I was able to tour around the area and I didn?t realize how beautiful St. John?s is and the many attractions it has to offer. The people, the food and the sites were outstanding.

What advice would you give to an Equipment Manager who?s team is holding their training camp off-site for the first time? 

I think the biggest thing is go out ahead of time and check out the arena and hotel and meet the people that you will be dealing with. They along with volunteers will help you in so many ways. Take pictures of your locker rooms and working environment and think about the electrical requirements, the heat and drying of equipment, laundry facilities and more that will be needed to ensure that camp runs smoothly.

Photos courtesy of Brian Papineau.

By Chris Davidson-Adams
Head Equipment Manager, Vegas Golden Knights

Blocking shots is something every player is now asked to do.  It?s not like the ?old days? where rugged, skilled players wouldn?t think about it, it?s a necessity.  It?s even a player statistic you can look up! With that, we as equipment managers are tasked with protecting the players so they aren?t scared of blocking shots. 

When I was first hired as Head Equipment Manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, one of my first tasks was to go over policies and culture with our General Manager, George McPhee.  It was an easy decision by both of us to encourage all players to wear hand and foot protection.  All players were very receptive and understanding of this. 

With so many great products and a variety of applications you can accommodate players how they see fit.  We use several products for foot protection ranging from Ultra Stop by Custom Skates Works, Helskore Skate Armour, No Shifts Missed, to Laboratoire Orthopediques.  All the manufacturers of gloves have options for hand protection which makes it easier now.  Custom Pro Repair makes great specialized products for those more challenging pads and injury protection.  From full foot to sides only, from full hand to knuckles only, if a player can dream it we do it.

Photos courtesy of Chris Davidson-Adams

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

Welcome to the 2019-20 Season!

We would first like to thank everyone for making our 2019 Annual Meeting in Austin Texas a huge success. We continue to have amazing support from our vendors and record attendance.

Plans are well underway for our 2020 meeting in Orlando Florida. Please mark your calendars for June 15-20 as we are back at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Please register early as we expect another ?sold out? conference. We are always looking for educational content, articles, news, tricks and tips from the field. Please reach out to the PHATS/SPHEM office or any members of the Executive Committees if you would like to help or have any interesting ideas.

Special thanks to Anita Ramsay and Natalie Grant and their staff for all their hard work and commitment to our groups. We are very fortunate to have them taking care of all the details for us to be able to put on a conference of this size. Speaking of all their hard work, please be sure to check out our brand-new website with many new features and information. www.phatssphem.com

We also could not have this conference without the continued support of our sponsors. We would like to thank the NHL and the NHLPA for their continued support and involvement at our meetings. We look forward to building on our partnerships with all of our sponsors and vendors.

We are very pleased to announce that our 2020 PHATS SPHEM Hall of Fame inductee will be Peter Millar. A man who has literally done it all in our business, Peter has spent 28 seasons in the National Hockey League, 17 seasons as Head Equipment Manager of the LA Kings and 11 seasons as the Head Athletic Trainer of the Edmonton Oilers. Peter was a member of 4 Stanley Cup Champion Oilers teams and is currently working his 14th season as a Pro Rep for Warrior Hockey. We look forward to celebrating Peter?s illustrious career with his family and friends.

We would also like to announce that PHATS has officially endorsed the NATA statement of recommendations to reduce the risk of injury related to sport specialization for adolescent and young athletes. PHATS was joined in this endorsement by PFATS, PBATS, the NBATA and the PSATS.

In closing congratulations to Scott Boggs of the New York Islanders and Jim McCrossin of the Philadelphia Flyers on their selections to join Ray Barile, Joel Farnsworth and the St. Louis Blues staff as they host the 2020 NHL All Star Game.

Best of luck to all of our members and supporters this season. May everyone stay healthy and safe. We look forward to seeing all of you in Orlando in June.

Darren & Chris

As another regular season comes to a close I want to wish everyone who is gearing up for a long run in the playoffs the best of luck! It is also time to start thinking about our annual meeting.  We have a great location this year for our members and our valued vendors to get together at the JW Marriott in Austin Texas, the Live Music Capital of the World!

I want to express a great deal of thanks to Anita Ramsay and Natalie Grant for all their hard work in planning our annual conference. This show could not be put on without them!

We think we have a great meeting planned for all. Plenty of education sessions and time to interact as a group. Our vendor exhibition continues to sell out with 200 exhibit booths this year. Many thanks to the SPHEM Executive Committee for all their efforts. Also, to PHATS President, Chris Kingsley for his help and support in my first year as president. It is nice having him down the hallway to be able to bounce ideas off each other.  I appreciate all these guys do for our group, while maintaining their busy schedules.

Congratulations Ken Lowe who will be our 2019 PHATS/SPHEM Hall of Fame honoree. Please join us as we honor Ken on his amazing career. We are also very happy to welcome former Edmonton Oilers great and Ken?s brother Kevin who I am sure will have many stories about Ken?s many accomplishments. We also look forward to honoring our members who have reached milestones in their own careers. Please join us for a great night.

Special thanks to our valued sponsors, long time exhibitors and our vendors who are joining us for the first time. Without all of you we could not put on a conference of this size.

Best of luck the rest of the way! We look forward to seeing everyone in Austin,

Grange

Darren Granger
Head Equipment Manager
Los Angeles Kings

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?

MA:
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.

Welcome to the 2018-19 Season!

Hope everyone got through their training camps and are well underway with our season?s!

I first want to thank Pete Rogers for all his hard work, dedication and vision for SPHEM as his term as President has come to an end. Pete has been a huge influence on both societies and I am very happy that the incoming Executive Committee for SPHEM can continue to lean on him for years to come.

Congratulations again to Rip Simonick on his induction into the PHATS/SPHEM Hall of Fame. A well- deserved honor for his outstanding career and dedication to PHATS/SPHEM, the National Hockey League and his Buffalo Sabres. It was a great celebration for Rip in Orlando. Special thanks to Pat Lafontaine, Rob Ray and Rick Jeanneret for showing how proud his family and friends are of Rip?s great career. We again had a very successful meeting in Orlando with a record number of vendors and registered members.

Special thanks to Anita and Natalie and their staff for all their hard work that goes in to making our convention the very best it can be.

The Executive Committee would also like to extend our appreciation to all our sponsors and vendors who continue to support us, we could not put on a convention of this size without your continued support. With that said, preparations have already begun for next year?s convention at the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas.

The Executive Committee is putting a big emphasis on planning on our education sessions for the coming meetings. If you have any suggestions of topics you would like to hear about or would like to contribute in any way please contact any of the Executive Committee, we would love to hear from you.

In closing, congratulations to Dave Williams of the Buffalo Sabres on his selection to join Mike Aldrich and his staff with the San Jose Sharks as they host the 2019 NHL All Star Game.

Best of luck to all members and supporters of SPHEM this season. May everyone stay healthy and safe. We look forward to seeing all of you in Austin in June.

Best of luck his season, and safe travels,

Grange

Darren Granger
Head Equipment Manager
Los Angeles Kings