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NHL.com's Online Magazine
Jan/2003, Vol. 1, Issue 4
  • With the honor of being a captain comes lots of hard work

  • Rangers' Messier has come to symbolize what leadership is about

  • Bruins turn leadership role to 24-year-old Thornton

  • NHL.com picks the 10 best captains of the last 20 years

  • Wigge: Being a captain requires class, courage and the feel of a champion

  • Captains: In their own words (MP3)

  • Behind the scenes: 'Patch' Wilson doctors Coyotes' gear

  • Burton enjoyed his day in 'The Show'

  • Photo of the month

  • Back issues of Impact

    Stan Wilson
    Over the years, Stan Wilson has built a reputation for tailoring equipment to suit the individual tastes of the players.

    Behind the scenes
    'Patch' Wilson doctors Coyotes' gear
    By John McGourty

    In his 13 years with the Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets organization, Stan Wilson has been a seamstress, laundry man, cobbler, moving man, inventor, handyman, diecaster and shoulder to cry on. In the NHL, we call these people equipment managers.

    Over the years, Wilson has built a reputation for tailoring equipment to suit the individual tastes of the players. It's a skill to repair worn-out gloves but it's an art to custom tailor them so that the player feels comfortable and experiences no loss of control or productivity.

    "One size fits all" is not an option when you're dealing with 23 idiosyncratic and often superstitious players.

    "There's always guys who have their own routines," Wilson said. "There's guys that want to wear the same equipment for a long time and you have to keep it well-maintained, whether it's gloves or skates or whatever. We continue to repair it until safety becomes a factor and then you have to talk the player into wearing something new."

    That's not always easy when a player has enjoyed a period of productivity while wearing equipment that long ago lost its original shape and appearance. Wilson often has to persuade his players that it's time to say goodbye to a jerry-rigged pair of shoulder pads or gloves with no palms and, sometimes, the underside of the fingers.

    "I think comfort is the biggest thing. The last thing you want is a player who feels uncomfortable because everyone is at such a high skill level that you can't afford to give the opposition an edge by not feeling good on the ice," Wilson said.

    The job has changed as the game and its equipment has changed. The leather skates of a decade ago with their moldable clay protection in the heels are giving way to lighter, high-tech boots. That limits Wilson's ability to reshape them to account for the individual size and taste.

    Teppo Numminen
    Stan Wilson does his own custom fitting for the Coyotes. Defenseman Teppo Numminen has to have a certain stiffness in his skates, so Wilson adds a piece of leather.
    "With the new-style skates, there's less we can do to modify them for individual comfort because the skates are made of so many different materials," he said. "When everyone wore leather skates, we could do a lot with them. You could tear a skate apart and rebuild it to get the stiffness in the right places as well as add or reduce padding. The new materials are not pliable and the composites can't be altered."

    No two players are alike when it comes to sizing and comfort. Some like tight skates, others want more flexibility. Some want skates with a thin tongue -- typically forwards -- while defenseman generally want a more padded one because they block a lot of shots while facing forward.

    "We do our own custom-fitting. If we get a pair of skates that don't fit a player, or they fit good in one place but not another, we have boot stretchers and we can cut a new lining to place inside to take up space," Wilson said. "It's not uncommon for a guy to have one foot slightly bigger than another so we have to make adjustments. Teppo Numminen has to have a certain stiffness all the time so we're always adding a piece of leather and this goes on game to game."

    It's a small detail of the game but one of the most amazing things you'll see in an NHL game is a defensemen stopping a clearing pass at his offensive blue line. The clearing pass is often a slapshot and travels up to 100 miles per hour. Wearing only a thin layer of leather over their palms, knuckles and fingers, NHL defensemen grab these lethal projectiles out of the air on a routine basis. You'll often see a forward get hurt trying to do the same thing. Don't try this at home!