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Packing for Toronto the biggest project ever for CBJ equipment staff

Inside the logistics of getting five tons of gear and supplies to the NHL bubble

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Over the past few days, Blue Jackets players talked about the difficult decisions awaiting them when it came to packing for the NHL bubble in Toronto. 

Considering it's a trip that could last as little as two weeks or could stretch longer than two months, it was a packing experience unlike any other for a group of players that is pretty used to being on the road.

Some players said they'd bring their XBox or PlayStation. Nick Foligno said he'd worry only about clothes and then take advantage of the younger players' gaming consoles. Devin Shore said he might bring a few books but really found his phone to be his biggest essential item. 

"It's unfortunate, but everyone is addicted to their phone these days," he said. "I am too. Sometimes you want to put it down and leave it, but that's the way the world is." 

But if those players thought they had a difficult time ahead of them when it came to packing for Sunday's arrival in Toronto, it was nothing compared to Blue Jackets equipment manager Tim LeRoy and his assistants Jamie Healy and Jason Stypinski.  

LeRoy and Healy have been with the Blue Jackets since the squad's inaugural season of 2000-21. Stypinski -- simply known as "Ski" by everyone -- joined prior to the 2005-06 season. These are guys that have seen it all.  

Well, they thought they had. 

"This is the biggest trip ever," LeRoy confirmed Friday afternoon amid getting everything ready for Sunday's arrival in Toronto. "We went to Sweden for those two games we played (to start the season in 2010). We thought we had to pack a lot of stuff for that, but this is above and beyond in what we have to take. This is just crazy." 

For comparison's sake: While there's no such thing as a normal road trip for the Blue Jackets -- this year's trips ranged from a number of one-day, single-game visits to opposing venues to the January trip to California and Vegas that included four games in six days -- LeRoy said he and his staff will take anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 pounds of gear each time the team leaves Columbus. 

LeRoy expects 9,000 to 10,000 pounds of gear, tools and supplies will head to Toronto, with a new twist. While most road trips just involve loading up the team plane with gear, the team sent Stypinski to Toronto with a 24-foot truck filled with extra supplies that is usually used by the organization's promo teams.  

"That thing is jam packed," LeRoy said of the truck. "It's almost double (the supplies) we normally have. It's something we've never experienced and don't know what to expect. It's the 'what ifs.' You have to prepare for everything here." 

There are a number of reasons this is a trip unlike anything LeRoy and his staff have dealt with before, and it's not just because of the time the team could be gone. 

That, of course, is a big issue, though. If the Blue Jackets go on a long playoff run, everything from sticks to jerseys to skates could need to be replenished as wear and tear builds up. Every player on the team has his own preferences when it comes to gear and how often it is replaced, so the CBJ equipment staff had to make sure to pack enough of that as possible. 

But the regulations around coronavirus have made added some difficulties when it comes to packing. In an effort to limit the spread of the virus, many things that used to be communal among team members -- from toiletries to water bottles to supplements -- must become individual.  

And equipment tools that are commonly shared among visiting teams when they come through each arena on a road trip -- glove dryers, for example, are provided to visiting teams in each arena -- are no longer able to be used by all. As a result, teams had to pack pretty much everything they intend to use, from laundry carts to hockey tape to skate sharpening equipment. 

"We are trying to be as self-sufficient as we can," LeRoy said. "We're preparing to be safer than we need to be. It feels like we're taking a lot of stuff." 

There is some good news. The NHL is providing some essentials -- such as 1,000 cases of Gatorade in each market plus thousands of practice pucks teams can use. 

LeRoy said things were broken down by priority as the team put together its manifest of supplies to take, but at the end of the day, things came down to a pretty simple question. If there's any question as to whether the Blue Jackets would need it, it found its way onto either the truck or plane. 

"It's funny, you walk by something, you think, 'Should I pack that? Do I have enough of that? Should I grab more of this?'" LeRoy said. "It's just crazy. Crazy." 

Things will reach some level of normalcy when practice begins Monday, as the equipment staff will settle into a bit of a road routine. Teams will have permanent rooms that belong to them at the practice facilities provided by the NHL, and while game days will be a little hectic because of how much work will go into sanitizing dressing rooms in Scotiabank Arena -- there are only four rooms available to teams there, as opposed to six in Edmonton, so some rooms will be used twice in a day -- the equipment staff is pretty used to moving things in and out quickly before and after games. 

To make it all work, It's been a group effort at a time where everyone in the organization has gone above and beyond to try to make the most unique postseason in hockey history happen.  

"I can't say enough about Jamie and Jason," LeRoy said. "We have lists and we double-check and then we sit down and we discuss it and say, 'OK, what do we need? Do we need anything else? How are we looking for space?' They've been working their butts off, too. Everybody has. It's just unbelievable." 

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