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There's always lots to do for an equipment manager

by John McGourty
Chicago Blackhawks equipment manager Troy Parchman took a different route than most of his NHL colleagues, who usually rise through the ranks of professional hockey to these pinnacle positions. Parchman, a 14-year veteran who joined the Blackhawks in 1994, came to the NHL from academia and the Canadian national team program.

Parchman was the equipment manager for the University of Saskatchewan football and hockey teams from 1982-88 while earning undergraduate degrees in physical education and sociology. He then became equipment manager for the Canadian national team, working consecutive World Championships from 1991-94.

Parchman was Canada's equipment manager at the 1992 and '94 Winter Olympics and the 2004 World Championships. He also worked the 2003 NHL All-Star Game.

Parchman talked with to provide a look at "a day in the life" of an NHL equipment manager. On a game day, what time do you get to the rink and what's your first order of business?

Parchman: "We try to get to the rink on a game day around 6:30-7 a.m. and get the room in order. If there was a basketball game the night before, we have to move our things back into the hallway and get the stick bench ready because it's across the hall in the laundry room.

"We keep all those doors closed during basketball. We also store our carts which we use to move the equipment bags to the loading dock. We use these big laundry hampers and we move them with a forklift.

"Brian Campbell has three pairs of gloves that he rotates. He doesn't wear out a lot of gloves. He and Patrick Kane each use three pair of gloves and each pair is numbered and they go in sequence. But if we gave them a pair of gloves out of sequence, they wouldn't even know or care. But we're always very careful that we give them the gloves in the right sequence." -- 'Hawks equipment manager Troy Parchman

"Then we set up the bench area and move the water jug cart there, and sweep that area because we walk from our dressing room to the bench. That's covered during the basketball game at night. That usually takes about 20-30 minutes. Then I gather and sharpen all the skates of the players who want their skates done before morning skate. Assistant equipment manager Clint Reif does the skates for all the players who want them done after morning skate. For me, it could be anywhere from eight to 12 pairs of skates. I get that done by 8:30-9 a.m., because then the players start to arrive for the 10:30 a.m. skate.

"After that, I get some paperwork organized or get it ready to go out. Then the players start coming so we try to make ourselves available for them if they need anything or if they forgot to tell us something that needed to be fixed the night before. On a game day, it's a big day for equipment reps to show up so we prepare any questions that we have to relay from the players.

"Morning skate starts at 10:30 and we make sure everybody is on the ice. Once the last players are on the ice then I'll pick up the hangers and tidy up their equipment stalls. Then I have a little quiet time so I do some more bills. If I'm working on a new pair of skates for a player, then I'll try to use that time.

"Everyone is on the ice so no one can bother me. Assistants Clint Reif or Jimmy Heintzelman watch the bench for morning skate. We skate no more than a half-hour and then we get the room ready and wait for the press to get out.

"I start putting out the socks and the jerseys. Clint is sharpening skates for the after-morning skate guys. Jimmy is usually with the visitors, getting their bench set up and making sure they're OK. That's usually done by 12:15 p.m. and then we grab lunch at the team pre-game meal.

"After lunch, we get the laundry going and hang the practice jerseys and stuff from the morning skate. Then it's pretty quiet. A lot of people, including the coaches, stay at the rink during the day, so they're either having a little nap in the lounge or working out. Then I can do orders or invoices or I'll vacuum the room and the hallway and the walkway to the ice. Then it's quiet time again so I squeeze in a half-hour nap on a trainer's table or an empty spot in the dressing room. Our first player arrives around 4:30 p.m. If a player needs something for the game, that takes precedence over trying to do work for the next day. Next thing you know, the game is starting.

"Clint goes to the bench for warm-ups and our game-night guy, Jeff Uyeno, and I pick up the hangers, put out the towels, do the drinks and get a load of laundry going after the players take a shower before the game.

"I'm on the bench for the game. We take out the gloves. Some players like to switch gloves during the period so we make sure they have available a second and third pair. When the game is over, and after the press leaves, we set up the stalls, hang everything, and pull insoles out of skates so they dry. Then, more laundry. We do 18 loads of laundry on a game day so the washers and dryers never stop from the time morning skate is over. Jeff stays until everything is done. Clint and I go home about midnight." The players have a room where they undress after games and practice and meet the media but they have their own locker room where their clothes are and they're away from the media. There's a trainers room for taking care of people with medical problems. There's a weight-lifting room. There's a laundry room. Are there more rooms that you guys are responsible for?

Parchman: "No, mostly just the dressing room and the lounge. That's their own private room." You mentioned there are guys who like to have more than one pair of gloves on the bench during the period. What are you guys doing between periods? Are you guys drying gloves and sweaters and shoulder pads?

"Yes, there are players who like their shoulder pads dried. It gets a little complicated because you only have enough room for 24. We have really good glove dryers, but when you've got guys wanting their skates on the dryers, it gets a little complicated. You find a way to get it done. If you've ever seen me in Chicago, you'll see me throwing gloves over the glass to Clint or Jimmy or one of our trainers. So when they get done with their first pair of gloves, Clint will put them on a hair dryer. Brian Campbell has three pair of gloves and he may want his first pair back. So he may wear four pair during a period. So when I throw that first pair over, Clint's already starting to dry them because they'll be the first pair they wear at the start of the second. Most of the gloves that the guys switch are already dry by the end of the period." You're talking about a guy who's sweating into the gloves. Do you have any guys who are superstitious or picky or anything else?

Parchman: "No, not too bad. Brian Campbell has three pair of gloves that he rotates. He doesn't wear out a lot of gloves. He and Patrick Kane each use three pair of gloves and each pair is numbered and they go in sequence. But if we gave them a pair of gloves out of sequence, they wouldn't even know or care. But we're always very careful that we give them the gloves in the right sequence." As far as the skate sharpening goes after the morning skate, when you're on the road, do you find that more players adjust their skates?

Parchman: "No. There's the odd time you go to someplace where the ice is quite different, like if it's really good or really bad. But the ice can change in the afternoon and quite often it will. If there was a concert or basketball game the night before, the ice in the morning may not be very good because it's been covered up for a day or two or a week. My guys don't want to vary their hollows. I'm a morning person so I don't care about coming in early. Sometimes I'm here at 6 a.m. on a game day if the mood strikes me. It's nice to be done with my 10-12 pair of skates in the morning and then I don't have to worry about skates again. We do the goalies' right before the game but that's my only other pair of skates that day unless I have to do a pair during the game.

"It's nice to know that I'm done with my skates. Doing skates is so monotonous but you have to pay attention and you have to concentrate because you have to make sure skates are done right. Equipment guys are very particular because players are going to know if the skates are off or if you did a bad job and it takes a while to do."
Going back to superstitions -- do you have anybody that likes everything to be on the left or anything?

"You know, these guys are really good because they're a bunch of young guys and they're very easygoing. It's interesting because I've been here 14 years and there are guys who are very particular during the game as to what you do and how you do it. But these guys are very easygoing and very loose. There's nobody that's particular, like a goalie that once he puts his stick on the wall before the game you don't dare touch his stick. None of the goalies are like that. So I don't have to worry that something happens or something's out of sync that they'll get disrupted before the game or it will interrupt their preparations for the game.

"Our guys are really good. I've had guys who wanted skates sharpened during the game and then put the right skate on first. So the player will give me his skates and I'm racing to get them done. So I happened to do the left skate first, not thinking. As soon as I get the first skate done I give it back to him so he can get ready. He says to me, 'What are you doing? I have to put the right skate on first?' So I finish the right one and give it to him and he's just sitting with his left skate off. Then you kick yourself because you're racing to get things done because you only have 15 minutes and if you end up doing two or three pair of skates between periods it gets a little tight. And it never fails that the coach will say, 'This guy's starting the period.'" You've got a great staff. Just give us a 30-second blurb on how much you depend on those guys with all you have to do in a day.

Parchman: "It's so important because the players have confidence to go to any one of us to do anything. I have the luxury of three guys who can sharpen skates. Some guys don't have a third guy who sharpens skates. It's important to the players, too, because if they see I'm busy, they can go to Clint or go to Jimmy, 'Hey, I need this done.'

Not everything is on me. I have total confidence in those guys that when they do something they will do a good job. It just takes a whole load off of me."

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