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Wearer of Many Hats

by Deborah Lew / Los Angeles Kings

He doesn’t even have a job title, but don’t let that fool you – Bob Halfacre is well known and recognized by everyone who’s anyone in the LA Kings organization, and he’s trusted with some very hefty responsibilities.

His first job for the Kings came in 1988. A player by the name of Wayne Gretzky came to play in Los Angeles, and his first Kings jersey was stitched and lettered by Halfacre who, at the time, worked for a company that specialized in lettering jerseys.

“You know the 99 jersey that Wayne holds up on the trading cards? I lettered that,” admits Halfacre, who grew up in Venice.

The Kings have been using Halfacre for their jerseys the last 26 years, and Halfacre now owns his own company, Bobcat Athletic, which is based in Los Angeles. With the exception of one set of jerseys that needed to be outsourced, every Kings jersey since the “Gretzky era” has come through Halfacre’s hands.

That’s a lot of jerseys, considering each season there is a home and road set for pre-season, and each regular season there are three sets of home jerseys and three sets of road jerseys, plus any specialty jerseys like Hockey Fights Cancer Night, Legends Nights, Dodgers Nights, etc. An additional set of jerseys is made for the first three rounds of the playoffs, and should the team make the Stanley Cup Final, another set is produced. This season, the Kings also used a special set of jerseys for Banner (Opening) Night, and will use a special jersey for Rob Blake’s retirement game.

Lost track yet?

Occasionally, jerseys need to be replaced due to tears, blood stains and the normal hockey wear and tear.  And Halfacre is always on call to replace them.

“Perfect example, I letter for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and when (Nick) Foligno was hurt and knocked out on the ice the other night, they cut his jersey off of him. So I got a phone call and they need another white jersey right away to replace the one they cut,” explains Halfacre, who also letters jerseys for the Tampa Bay Lightning and about a dozen minor league hockey teams.

The Kings are under contract with the MeiGray Group, which sells their game-worn jerseys, along with those of other professional sports teams. The contract states that the players are allowed to keep one set per season – two years ago it was a set of vintage jerseys, and last season it was a set of road whites – as well as the jersey they win the Stanley Cup in, should it happen. The money that the Kings make from the MeiGray contract is put back into the equipment budget for the purchase of new jerseys.

Part of the jersey business necessarily includes privileged knowledge where Halfacre needs to be prepared for trades and signings that are unknown to many others.

“We’ve made things for teams that might happen but never do, and we have to remind ourselves that these are people that you’re making jerseys for, but their lives are going to be uprooted,” Halfacre shares. “A lot of times I know before the players even know.”

Due to the compact nature of the hockey schedules, FedEx is used frequently by Halfacre in his jersey business, and he’s had some cases where, should a trade go through, the plan is that he would get on a plane because a new jersey is needed that night.

Halfacre’s contract with the Kings for jerseys is only one aspect of his connection to the team. Halfacre is also an hourly employee with the Kings equipment staff, and is utilized in a variety of different ways.

One of his responsibilities is to ensure STAPLES Center is set up on game nights for both teams. He oversees the visiting team locker room attendants, who are also Kings employees, sets up the benches, and is the go-to person for trouble shooting in these areas.

He also helps out with equipment truck runs, which could either be the Kings with their equipment, or a visiting team with theirs. A couple weeks ago, the Kings were coming back from a game in Phoenix on Saturday night, and needed to be picked up at the airport. Also needing to be picked up at the airport was their Sunday night opponent, the Winnipeg Jets, whose equipment headed straight to STAPLES Center to be unpacked after that night’s concert, and the Edmonton Oilers, who brought their equipment to the hotel for their game against the Kings the next Tuesday. For Halfacre and Assistant Equipment Manager, Joe Alexander, the night began at 10 p.m. and ended at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Halfacre also helps with things around the rink when the team is on the road. He checks in and puts away any freight that comes in, and if there’s an emergency and something needs to get to the team, he either ships it or, in a real bind, could hop on a plane and meet the team somewhere.

Between both jobs, Halfacre hasn’t had a day off since mid-August. Since the season started he’s worked more than 15 all-nighters, and during the week of Frozen Fury, he worked from 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning until he met Alexander on Friday morning, stitching the special jerseys the players wore during warm-ups that would be sold to benefit Hydrocephalus research. Fortunately for Halfacre, he was able to sleep in the car as Alexander drove the equipment truck to Las Vegas to meet the team.

“I’m okay as long as there’s something to do,” says Halfacre, who doesn’t need coffee or other energy drinks. “You learn to do it, you build the stamina and you can do it, it’s not a big deal.”

It helps that Halfacre is doing something he enjoys in an industry he loves, and the fact that Halfacre grew up a Kings fan is definitely a contributing factor in his success.

“We’ve had some good times, but this is the best time ever. We’re one of the best teams in the world, and we know we have a chance to win every night, you get to meet players, it’s a lot of fun.  It never gets boring.”


Follow on Twitter: @by_DeborahLew

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