With his phone in one hand and a checklist in the other, Ryan Stenn glances at his watch. It's 12:30 a.m. back in the Bay Area on what now is a Thursday morning. But it’s just business as usual for Stenn, the team services and media relations coordinator for the San Jose Sharks
Five hours earlier, Stenn was in the exact same position, working the phones with his checklist in hand and making sure the team's flight departed without incident from Philadelphia following the Sharks' 7-6 shootout win.
As the team's plane begins its descent into the Fort Lauderdale area, Stenn's job gets more challenging. Inclement weather has diverted the plane to Miami, adding several items to his checklist. The bus scheduled to pick up the team is at a different airport, the hotel staff in the lobby to check the players in will have to wait and the ice time the team has booked for practice will have to be rescheduled for later in the day on Thursday.
Daunting tasks? For some, yes. But not for Stenn.
"The most important part about my job is being organized," he said. "Making sure you have double- and triple-checked everything you've done, from the buses to the contact numbers to the weather report. Nothing falls through the cracks."
Throughout the road trip, Stenn is in constant communication with media relations manager Tom Holy, who's traveling with the team. Holy is the point person for any travel issues while Stenn is stationed in San Jose.
"As the team services coordinator, I don't travel all the time," Stenn said. "The Sharks, like several other teams, use the media relations guy on the trip to help out. He's the point person for all media requests, but he also takes the command from me. Everything that he needs to handle I've set up ahead of time."
In this instance, being prepared for all contingencies dramatically reduced the burden of traveling on the team. Though the players and staff had to spend an extra hour on the plane because of their unscheduled visit to Miami, the players and other members of the traveling party arrived at their hotel by 4:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m. in San Jose).
Thanks to the combined efforts of Stenn and Holy, practice was rescheduled from noon to 3 p.m. to give the players an extra three hours to rest.
"Before I began my job, I never realized how strenuous the travel can be on a sports team," said Stenn, who travels full-time with the team in the playoffs and on long road trips. "Late games and late nights in new cities and traveling right after games is a grind. After 82 games, it's amazing how these guys can still play at a competitive level every night with what they go through from a travel standpoint."
While the travel schedule late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning was anything but ordinary, most trips don't have problems.
"In the three years that I've been doing this, I've been pretty fortunate that there have only been a few instances where things have gone wrong," Stenn said. "In those cases it was really out of my control. I think all the guys know it's out of my control. But they find a way to give me, Holy or (Director of Media Relations Scott) Emmert the business. It's all good natured and I think at the end of the day they may make it seem like it's your fault, but they know it's out of your control and they just like to have fun with the situation."
While Stenn takes pride in his ability to handle any last-minute changes, many of his day-to-day tasks are mapped out months in advance and are executed on a regular schedule each day. For example, this past Monday was a pretty standard day.
Shortly after Stenn arrived at the Sharks' practice facility, he printed a copy of the NHL statistics report, grabbed a dry-erase marker and went to the player’s lounge to update the standings boards before the players and coaches arrive.
From there, Stenn made copies of press clippings for members of the media in advance of the team's 11 a.m. practice, distributed any media requests to specific players' lockers, and then returned to his desk where he counted out the per diem envelopes for the players and staff for the upcoming road trip.
He finalized Tuesday's itinerary, which included a cross-country flight to Philadelphia, printed a weather report for each city on the team's three-game trip, and then submitted his final manifest to the charter company that would be handling the flight. He printed all items for each player to pick up before they left the practice rink, then also posted everything on the two bulletin boards near the locker room and players’ changing areas.
One of Stenn’s biggest team-travel projects this season is the annual father's trip. Each player's father is invited to join the team on a three-day, two-game road trip. This season, the fathers will join the team on Nov. 16 and 17 for games in Chicago and Nashville.
"This year we knew we were going to do the father's trip again and we decided on the dates in early August, so I was able to book the hotel rooms," Stenn said. "We also reconfigure our plane so we can fit an extra 20 or 25 dads. Having that all laid out a few months in advance really helps.
"Besides setting up tickets for the games, we also make reservations for a nice meal for the dads. We'll set up a few other activities that are out of the ordinary as far as any other trips go, but it's a good chance for them to be out there with their sons."
Anyone who has organized dinners, gatherings or trips for families or friends knows something can always go wrong. But the organizer always feels a sense of pride when everything is done. There’s no doubt Stenn feels that way at the end of each road trip. But there’s one other thing Stenn enjoys about his position.
"My favorite part of my job is feeling like you're part of the team," Stenn said. "A lot of responsibility falls on you to make sure the team gets where they need to be, and without you it wouldn't happen. So I feel like I am part of the team even though I'm not on the ice. That’s a good feeling."
Alex Aragon is an Internet Services Coordinator for the San Jose Sharks.