In a grueling NHL season, players will require countless repairs to keep them in peak physical condition. Head athletic therapist Rob Milette and assistant athletic therapist Brad Shaw are tasked with making sure the Winnipeg Jets are healthy and ready to go on the ice night in, night out.
Game days at MTS Centre are especially eventful for the two men.
“We roll in at 7:30 in the morning on a game day,” says Milette. “The first thing we do is review player files, and plan our various treatments for the day.”
Milette and Shaw have files on every Jets player to ensure that information on each player’s health is readily accessible and up-to-date.
“We are constantly in communication with our management and coaching staff, passing along all information we have on the health of the players so that they can make appropriate roster decisions,” says Milette.
“We also deal with any injuries that occur in St. John’s, so that we are up-to-date on players that we may call up in the future,” says Shaw.
If there are any injured players on the Jets roster, they will show up at the rink earlier than the healthy players in order to workout, skate or be treated by Milette or Shaw. The healthy players then arrive around 9:00am and the therapists will begin treatments on them in preparation for the team morning skate.
“Every player is different in what he needs,” says Milette. “Some like us to help them warm up or stretch, while others like to do it themselves. Some have muscle pains, so we may perform ultrasound therapy on them.”
The Jets then head out onto the ice for practice under the watchful eyes of the therapists, who will observe the movements of the players in action and be nearby in the event a player needs assistance in any way.
“One of us is always on the bench during practice,” says Shaw. “If the players are experiencing pain or discomfort they can then tell us immediately, so we can get to work on the issue quickly.”
If practice goes well, there will not be any severe injuries for Milette and Shaw to deal with. However, in the world of professional hockey there will always be bumps and bruises along the way.
“After morning skate the guys will come back for another round of treatment if necessary,” says Milette. “Usually it involves icing muscles that may be inflamed.”
The players then leave MTS Centre for a few hours, which is a good chance for Milette and Shaw to catch up on paperwork, do some player filing and prepare for game time.
“Players then come back into the rink at 4:00, and we get them prepared for the game,” says Milette. “This usually involves a lot of taping of wrists and sometimes ankles to provide support for areas that are injured, or have been injured in the past. As with the morning skate, we may also help players warm up and stretch too.”
Both Milette and Shaw are on the bench for every Jets game, home or away. The team also has four doctors in attendance every game who are readily available should there be any serious health concerns that need to be addressed.
Following the game they help the players with any post-game injuries, do some last-minute paperwork and pack of equipment. All of this usually means that on a day in which they arrived to work at 7:30 in the morning, Milette and Shaw do not head home until around midnight. However, for both men the reward far outweighs the sacrifice.
“The best part is seeing how hard the injured guys work to get back into the lineup,” says Milette. “We’ll do everything to get them back (into game action) provided it’s safe, and they always do whatever they can to get back out there.”
“Hockey players are a different breed altogether,” adds Shaw. “Anything we tell them they need to do to get back in the lineup, they’ll do it. It’s fun to work with athletes like that because they hang on your every word. They take your advice and accomplish their goals.”