Jason McMaster is the Head Equipment Manager for the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club. When most people think of an equipment manager, they think of a guy who washes jerseys, sharpens skates and hands the players new sticks on the bench. Those are definitely a few of the job requirements but the list doesn’t end there.
McMaster and his assistant managers, Mark Grehan and Mike Flaman, are in charge of everything that a hockey player needs to play the game from his skates to his helmet to his jersey, for every pre-season game and all 82 regular season games.
Each player is different in that they each have specific preferences when it comes to their hockey equipment. Some players prefer to tape their own sticks and have their skates sharpened every period, others like to have their skates sharpened once a game and don't mind the equipment managers taping their sticks. Catering to each player on the roster is just one of the challenges that McMaster faces on a daily basis.
"Some guys are a little more finicky with things like their skates or their sticks so you're always fine-tuning something for them," said McMaster.
One of the biggest challenges he says is working with some of the manufacturers to get equipment on time.
"Staying ahead with what the players need is crucial,” he stressed. “They are changing brands, skates and sticks all the time so making sure that I've got enough inventory and am carrying over the old inventory can be challenging. I also have to make sure to work within my budget and make sure all the invoices get paid. My assistants help with a lot of things like taking care of the skates and a lot of the sewing and things like that. They also help take care of the visiting team room for home games."
McMaster and an assistant, two medical staff, and the team massage therapist, all travel with the team on every road trip. There are 65 pieces of baggage that travel with the crew ranging from hockey equipment to jerseys to sewing machines to sharpeners to tool trunks.
“We bring back-up jerseys for everyone and carry more back-up sticks then we could ever need,” said McMaster. “Each skater also must have a second pair of skates just in case. We have it down to a magic number.”
When you really feel like you've made a difference, it feels like I'm actually contributing to the goal, which is winning. - Jason McMaster
For McMaster, the most rewarding part of his job is working on the more technical aspect, working on players skate profiles and individual equipment tweaks.
“When players come up to you and say that it actually makes a difference out there and that they feel better, is when you really feel like you've made a difference. It feels like I’m actually contributing to the goal, which is winning.”