One job in any sport that probably has the most nitty-gritty behind the scenes role is that of the equipment manager. Helping players with the little nuances of their equipment, getting the locker rooms set up, and working with trainers to find new ways to fit a players particular style of play are just a few of the things that fill their job description.
“I like to be the behind the scenes guy that makes it all roll,” said New York Islanders head equipment manager Scott Boggs. “I don’t like being the spotlight guy. I just like being behind the scenes.”
If you ever took a look at the New York Islanders up close, you’d realize that each player’s uniform is slightly different from the next. At first glance, it appears everyone is sporting the identical outfit, a blue and orange home jersey, blue pants and a blue helmet with hockey skates.
In reality, that identical uniform isn’t quite a perfect match. From years and years of playing the sport, players have grown accustomed to different equipment specifications.
|The equipment manager of the the New York Islanders sharpens a skate before the game against the Atlanta Thrashers on December 6, 2008 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images) |
For example, Matt Moulson
chooses to wear a thin shell over the girdle-style Reebok pads he straps on to his lower body, rather than the more bulky version of some of his counterparts. He matches that with a CCM helmet, an Oakley visor, Reebok gloves and CCM skates, while defenseman Travis Hamonic
is adorned in gear by Bauer.
The branding, as noted above, all happens even before each player sets their own modifications to their equipment, which may or may not change throughout the season. Some cut out extra padding in their gloves because they can’t grip their stick the right way, while others add padding in certain areas to help soften a blow from being hit with a puck, stick or a body check.
“I like that part of the job,” Boggs said. “It’s fun and relaxing for me. I always like to use my head and think of different adaptations to equipment that you can use to protect a player from further injury.”
Boggs continued, “Myself and Garrett (Timms, the Islanders head athletic trainer), we work together as far as injuries. And between the two of us, we come up with a lot of different protectors for skates, gloves and other things.”
Some of the most unique creations have to be the shoulder pads. It’s one piece of equipment that most players hate to throw away. Instead, they’ll depend on Boggs to use his sewing skills and creativity to craft something, allowing the player to use the same raggedy piece of equipment year after year.
“You have to be a problem solver because if something comes up, you have to be able figure out how to fix it,” Boggs said. “Nowadays, I talk to a lot of other equipment guys around the league and I learn different things from them, while I’m also able to help them. That’s how it works now, but back when I first started, you just figured it out on your own.”
Modifications are also made to skates, except not for the same reason as the shoulder pads. There is so much wear and tear on skates that Boggs said select players average three to six pairs each season.
|Islanders equipment manager Scott Boggs added a plastic pad to the outside of Jack Hillen's skate adding extra protection for when the Isles defenseman is hit while blocking a shot. |
But pucks fly around at 100-plus miles-per-hour and players need to step in shooting lanes to block shots. If you’ve ever been hit, you know it doesn’t feel too good. Thus, some players add an extra protective layer around their skate where they’re most likely to be hit with one of those frozen flying saucers.
Boggs has been around the league for quite some time, taking his first professional job in 1995, with a junior A club in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In his 16 years since then, he’s said players’ modifications never cease to surprise him. One day a player may not need anything, but that could all change at a moments notice.
“Guys all have a certain way they go down to block a shot, so I’ll add a piece of protection in that area so that next time they block a shot there will be a little shock absorbed,” Boggs said. “It usually happens after they’ve been hit once or twice because that’s when they realize they’re missing padding.”
Thus, keeping up with each players needs is an around the clock gig and making sure he’s on top of it requires taking notes.
“I’m a big notebook guy,” Boggs said. “I like to have my notebook handy all the time, but I do have it all in my head pretty well. But that’s just from years of being around these guys and understanding their tendencies.”
While Boggs fixes and adapts to all sorts of equipment issues, one thing he rarely touches is a player’s stick. For some reason, players are extremely superstitious and all have their own tendencies and routines.
“Most guys stay with the same stick all year, so you’re pretty good if you have them stocked,” Boggs said. “But some guys that are having problems or issues or are not performing the way they think they should be, so they’ll try new patterns. We just have to stay on top of that.”
As the title “manager” suggests, Boggs has a few added responsibilities - one of them being lots of paperwork.
|Islanders equipment manager Scott Boggs added extra padding to Justin DiBenedetto's glove to protect part of his hand from injury. |
“There is a lot of paperwork in the business nowadays,” Boggs said. “It takes up some of your time, but that’s why I have assistants with me that are able to help me out, whether it’s straightening up the room or doing a repair on something. Then I have the time to do my paperwork and make sure that all the bills are paid to get the equipment that we need.”
Another one of Boggs’ responsibilities is making sure each one of his assistants knows their daily tasks. His assistants Richard Krouse and Tom Kitz both have their own responsibilities each day that don’t vary too much, making Boggs’ job easy.
Krouse travels with the team, sets up all the equipment in each player’s stall and sharpens skates to each player’s liking. Kitz is in charge of laundry and airport runs. Every practice day, the team does between six and seven loads of laundry in industrial sized machines, but on game days, the team can - and often does - do more than 20 loads. He also drives both the Islanders and the visiting team’s equipment to and from the airport as well as sets up the visiting team’s locker room the same way Krouse tends to the Islanders locker room.
But running a smooth show requires more help. In all, Boggs runs a five-man show.
“We have a couple dressing room assistants that have been around for a long time,” Boggs said. “Charlie Nass, who’s been around for 20-plus years, and Artie Verdi, who’s been around probably close to 20 years now.”
Boggs continued, “Their routine is the same. We don’t even have to talk to them about it. They come in, prepare the benches and prepare the room. They get everything ready for the game and after the game they break it down. Then we set up for the next day. It’s a pretty flawless system.”
At the end of the day, Boggs doesn’t mind working long hours and constantly being on the road. He said, “I just like to do my job as best as I can,” Boggs said. “I try to put the guys out there as the best that I can and have fun with it. I enjoy coming to the rink every day. It’s not a job. It’s come to the rink.”
This story first appeared in the Islanders Digital Magazine.