Former NHL general manager Jay Feaster always had an interested young assistant by his side no matter where he was working.
Theresa Feaster, the oldest of Jay and his wife Anne's five children, would fax official documents prepared by her father to the NHL and NHLPA. She'd talk hockey with John Tortorella and Bob Hartley and sit with her dad to analyze games and players. She would watch late-night games on television with him after they got home from the rink. She would become fascinated about advanced statistics, learning how they work and why they're relevant in evaluating players.
"From the time she was young, she has never looked at the game as a fan," said Jay Feaster, the general manager of the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. "She understood about chemistry. She understood when a guy goes down to block a shot when the team is getting beat 5-0 in the third that's unique, that there is something about that player. It was never, 'Oh, that's a good looking hockey player, that's a cute boy.' There was always something else going on."
These days, Feaster isn't working with her father. She's in her first season as a full-time member of Providence College men's ice hockey team's coaching staff as the coordinator of hockey operations.
Feaster and Brittany Miller (Boston University) are the first women who are working as full-time staff members for Division I men's hockey teams. Miller is the director of hockey operations at BU.
"I love the game and I find so much joy and passion in doing this work that it doesn't really feel like work to me," Theresa Feaster said. "Every day I get to wake up and I feel lucky because I get to go to the rink and I get to work with incredible coaches and a great group of players. It feels like I've found a genuine passion in life and as long as I'm able to pursue it I'm going to try my best to pursue it."
February is Hockey Is For Everyone month. Feaster understands she's trying to break down a barrier in what has long been a male-dominated industry but to her, that never meant she couldn't try, that she couldn't succeed.
"Every kid that's in high school or college facing the future, asking, 'what am I going to do with my career' always has doubts in their mind," Feaster said, "but once I started down the path I thought that certainly if I was able to find an opportunity and work hard and prove myself that it would be something I could do."
She doesn't hide from the fact that a big reason she got the opportunity at Providence is because her father was working in the industry and knew its coach, Nate Leaman.
Jay Feaster, who is now the executive director of community hockey development with the Lightning, said he only opened the door for his daughter by introducing her to Leaman at the 2012 NHL Draft.
"She did the rest," he said.
Theresa Feaster's education from years of being with her dad and her hard work allowed her to impress Leaman.
She was an undergraduate assistant for two years before finishing third in her class at Providence as a history major. She was then a graduate assistant for two years before Leaman offered her a full-time opportunity prior to this season.
"He didn't know me [when we met]," Feaster said. "He just gave me an opportunity to prove myself. Once I got that opportunity I tried to make the most of it every day just by working hard at doing my best and trying to do good work to help the Friars."
Feaster's responsibilities include filming every practice and breaking it down for the coaches, helping break down video of opponents and managing all of Providence's internal statistics. She's in charge of the team's travel and helps the players and coaches with individual scheduling.
The only thing she doesn't do is work on the ice with the players.
"She was valedictorian at Tampa Catholic High School and No. 3 at her class in Providence with a 3.98 GPA, so she's obviously very bright," Jay Feaster said. "Her siblings would be like, 'Well, Theresa, she's brilliant,' but what I don't think they ever saw is Theresa works her tail off."
Leaman once relayed an example of that to Jay. It happened following a Friday night game in her first season as an undergraduate assistant.
"Nate said, 'I told her after the game that we're going in to break down the film, me and the coaches, and if you want you can come in with us and you can be our note taker,'" Jay Feaster said. "He said he figured he'd get the polite smile and the 'thanks coach, but I got a party to go to' response, but he said her eyes lit up and she said, 'Sure coach, be happy to.' He knew then this was not your normal undergrad."
Theresa Feaster said she'd like to follow in her father's footsteps and continue a career in hockey operations. She doesn't want to become a coach but is interested in learning everything about that profession in order to broaden her knowledge.
"I've always been very fascinated in more the management and player personnel side of things, building rosters, putting teams together," she said.
Though she used to dream of working in the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup like her father, Feaster isn't so sure if she wants to do that anymore. She said college hockey has, at least for now, won her over, but she'll never say never to the NHL.
She's confident the NHL won't say no to her just because of her gender.
"There are a lot of people out there who are open minded and willing to see it," Feaster said. "If I do good work and I work hard, I hope that speaks for itself."