Ever wonder what the life of an NHL equipment manager is like? Florida Panthers Head Equipment Manager offered a glimpse into that world with his AMA today on the /r/hockey subreddit. Here's a quick compilation of his best answers - but the full thing can be seen here.
Question: Every time a guy breaks a stick the announcers inevitably make some comment about "there goes $300" and I always think there's no way in hell the team is actually paying that much for each stick. So what's a more realistic number?
$180 is the NHL price, and that's pretty comparable across the board per vendor. Per league, you could get cheaper prices based on league deals. Most colleges sign exclusive contracts, they can pay as little as $89 per stick!
Question: Who on the team has the strangest quirks about their gear?
I'd say Jagr. When I came into this position, I'd never met him, and I was worried about what to expect. But I was completely wrong.
On top of being a great guy, he knows exactly what he wants with his equipment. With that being said, he still does need some attention with his skates and his sticks. He's a player who doesn't like new equipment, so we're always sewing his gloves and his pants and his shoulder pads back together. We actually travel with weights for him that he wears around. Ankle weights and a vest. I've never seen that in my life with another player. Obviously, it's working.
Question: I was wondering if any players have superstitions about their gear you have to follow? And if there are, could you share one or two? Or, have you ever ignored a superstition just to see what happens?
A big part of our job is to support the players. Superstitions are definitely a part of that. To be very honest, it's something we learn. Each player's superstition, we respect it and try to follow. This could be something as simple as preparing a stick every morning or putting a certain piece of equipment a certain direction. I feel it's my job to remove excuses from these players (in a positive way!), so there's never a need for me to go against what they say they need to perform at the highest level.
One of our guys always wants exactly three bottles of water. We thought we were helping him by untwisting the caps, but he didn't like that, so he wasn't drinking them. Turns out he liked to untwist the caps by himself!
Question: How do I get your job?
It's taken me 15 years to get where I am today. I started off being very, very lucky. Getting a full-time position in hockey is not easy. My hometown was awarded a minor league hockey franchise (SWB Penguins) and I was able to volunteer my services folding towels and emptying garbage cans.
My recommendation would be to get some hockey retail experience (pro shop, etc), because jobs are so limited. Anything that can put you ahead of the curve (no pun intended) will help.
Jobs are so limited, there are so many good equipment managers out there already, jobs are very tough to come by. Best of luck though!
Question: I seen some behind the scene videos of little changes equipment managers will make for a player. One example was the Devils equipment manager took padding out of a skate to help the players mobility. What is one little change you have made to a players equipment that made a difference for the player?
These changes actually happen on a daily basis. One or two guys always have something they need corrected.
I know the exact video you're talking about, actually. It's really common to get inside a skate and make it more customized for the player. But also, working in the NHL, once these repairs are made, we can go through the vendors and get the gear made at the custom spec.
The new repair (steel and custom profiling) is taking over for the equipment specifically. Instead of spending time changing the equipment, the companies send that, so most of the work I do is on the steel on the skates.
When I started in hockey, a pair of gloves would take 2-3 weeks to break in, now these guys are wearing them out of the bag the day of the game.
Question: what is the lowest and highest stick flex you've seen on the teams you've worked with? and how long does a typical pair of hockey skates last for an NHL player?
Highest flex I've seen is 110, which nobody uses right now. The lowest would be in the 65 range. Lower flexes are becoming more and more common, guys like the added kick.
As for the skates, good rule of thumb is one month.
Question: Hey Teddy! I have two questions for you... Does pineapple have a place on pizza? and Is a hotdog a sandwich?
I'm a Hawaiian pizza fan, so absolutely! I come from a small hometown with some very good pizzerias, so I know my pizza.
I would not call a hot dog a sandwich, no.