When Ryan Johansen took a high hit and needed attention during a game last week at Bridgestone Arena, Andy Hosler was first over the boards.
That's the way it's been for the past five seasons - if a member of the Predators suffers an injury, Hosler is the first one on the scene.
His role as head athletic trainer for the Preds certainly carries a high amount of importance and responsibility, and thanks to his tireless work tending to the medical needs of Nashville's top hockey players, Hosler was recognized by his peers of the Tennessee Athletic Trainers' Association with the honor of 2018 Clinical/Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year.
It was a humbling accolade for the Monroe, Michigan, native, not bad for someone who didn't have much of an idea as to what he wanted to do for a living until his sophomore year in college.
"I had a thought of going into the medical field, and at the time, I was obsessed with hockey and athletics," Hosler said. "I was a sophomore going into my second semester, and I was watching a hockey game. The Detroit Red Wings were playing, there was an injury and I saw the trainer run out onto the ice."
The rest is history.
Studying at Western Michigan, Hosler began to pursue his newfound career aspirations, finishing his undergraduate degree before receiving his masters in kinesiology from Michigan State. Once he became immersed in the athletic training atmosphere, he set head athletic trainer for a college hockey program as his end goal.
But, as Hosler explained, college programs won't consider those who are lacking experience in hockey. So off to the minor leagues he went, landing a position with the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies - and the more time he spent in the pro ranks, the more he began to dream of the bright lights of the NHL.
"When the job opened in Nashville for the assistant position, I thought it was a no brainer to go after it," Hosler said. "This has been a great spot for me. I've enjoyed it and it's definitely a dream, maybe that I didn't know I had at the time until I was striving for it and trying to get there."
Hosler was promoted to the position of head athletic trainer prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, overseeing the health and rehab of all players throughout the Preds organization. A job with long hours and plenty of issues to deal with, it also has its perks - like having the best seat in the house to watch the best hockey players in the world night after night.
"The thought of being able to watch hockey for a living was what got me into athletic training," Hosler said. "The hours are tough at times, but I always say I live a pretty privileged life. I have a lot of good things in my life and a lot of it has come because of where I am and how I've gotten here."
Everyone watches the game a bit differently, and a spectator in the stands isn't necessarily looking for what those behind the bench might have their attention on. Just as Predators Head Equipment Manager Pete Rogers has a keen eye for when a player's stick might break, Hosler is looking for any ailment, no matter how minor, that might need tending to.
"A lot of times, the play is down at one end and I have to keep an eye on a scrum or a late hit that's going to occur at a different side," Hosler said. "I have to keep an eye on them even though the play may be moving in a different direction. Usually as soon as I see a potential injury, my first reaction is how am I going to get out on the ice and if I really need to."
In a contact sport like hockey, those instances occur from time to time, and those who rely on Hosler and his staff for assistance are glad it's him who will be first on the scene.
"The trainers and the equipment guys, the never get enough credit," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "Those guys put in the most hours and they're always there for us. We're lucky to have Andy and he means a lot to this team."
"Andy is unbelievable," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's got a disposition that allows him to handle everybody's woes every day, from the staff, the coaches, the players; he's calm, he's cool, he's collected, he's smart and he's a great person. He's great at what he does and we're lucky to have him here."
Just as those who rely on him sing his praises, Hosler credits his family's support from home as a must-have during the long days and travel, adding that the rest of the training staff, particularly Assistant Athletic Trainers D.J. Amadio and Jeff Biddle, as well as Strength and Conditioning Coach David Good, are pillars of his success.
"I always say you're only as good as the people you surround yourself with," Hosler said. "If you have people that are doing their job and they're able to be relied upon, then it makes everyone's life a lot easier."
It's that family atmosphere between players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers and the rest of the hockey operations staff, Hosler says, is the best part of his job. And that trust that's been built with one another over the years undoubtedly contributes to the on-ice success of the club.
After all, everyone is striving for the same thing - but when something goes awry, it's Hosler who will be ready to make it right again.
"A long time ago, someone told me hockey is a hidden gem in athletic training," Hosler said. "It's the great people I've met throughout the years that I would consider my favorite part of the job and will always take with me. Going to the Stanley Cup Final was pretty awesome, too."