Entering his ninth season with the Stars, Equipment Manager Steve “Sudsy” Sumner oversees the club’s equipment efforts. His team includes Assistant Equipment Manager Chris Davidson-Adams (better known as “Critter” around the locker room) and Equipment Assistant Dennis Soetaert.
You won’t find a harder working group in the organization. Sumner and his crew have been preparing for the 2008 Stars Training Camp for over eight months.
“We actually start ordering equipment in January,” Sumner said. “Reebok wants all of the orders for the jerseys and a lot of the protective stuff in January. We get 210 jerseys from Reebok and we order some extras. Then there’s all of the socks -- large, extra large, extra large plus; we have to break all of that down. Then we order more stuff In July and June, when we start signing guys and your roster starts to come together. That’s when we start ordering the specifics like sticks and skates and gloves.”
While most people aren’t thinking about hockey season much in July and August, that’s when the equipment staff kicks things back into gear.
The team spends roughly $200,000 on sticks that need to be ready for mid-September.
“And that’s just for camp,” Sumner proclaimed.
That’s a lot of sticks.
“You have to stay on top of things and order early because of you don’t, you’ll be in trouble,” Sumner said. “We’ve had guys skating on their own and getting in shape for camp for over six weeks now. There’s a lot to organize and prepare for, but we love it. This is an exciting time of year for all of us.”
The Stars have over 45-55 players in training camp every year, and the equipment managers have to take care of each and every one of the players’ equipment needs.
One of the biggest challenges -- simply finding lockers for all of the players and deciding where to place their equipment for camp.
“The coaches split the squad up into two groups and sometimes it’s a chore figuring out who stays in the main locker room, who goes across the hall in the extra locker rooms and all of that,” Sumner said. “Of course you get grief from some the guys in the bad locker room.
“It’s a lose-lose situation,” he joked.
Then of course there’s helping plan the ice times and keeping things organized with the coaches’ schedules. Lucky for Sudsy and his crew that Stars coach Dave Tippett is in control.
“Tip makes it easier for all of us, that’s for sure,” Sumner said. “He is as organized as they come.”
Every player has his own level of need when it comes to the equipment guys. Some players go through one pair of skates a month during the season while others will wear one pair for the entire year. The same goes with gloves.
“(Mike) Modano’s had the same two pairs of gloves for almost his entire career,” Sumner said. “We re-palm them every summer, but they’re the same ones. He also is one of those guys who’ll use just one pair of skates for the season.”
But all of the players have the need for fresh-sharpened skates. That is one of the more time-consuming chores for camp – just keeping up and not getting back-logged with skates.
“Fortunately we have three guys who can all do the same job,” Sumner said. “Dennis, Critter and I can all do the many things that go into the job, so that helps a lot and it’s all good.”
It’s a lot of work but it’s a life they relish and enjoy. This week is arguably their longest of the season, starting each and every day at about 6 AM. Practice days get them out of the rink by 7 PM usually, while game days go close to midnight or even longer.
“On game days, we have to move all of the gear down to American Airlines Center for the game and then move it all back to Frisco afterwards,” Sumner said. “It’s a lot better in the regular season when we have two sets of gear. Then we only move the goalies and sticks during a home stand.”
The equipment guys are respected by everyone in the organization for their dedication to the job. Perhaps no one knows how hard they work better than the players.
“We’re very fortunate that we don’t have a lot of guys who are high-maintenance,” Sumner said. “These guys really understand what we have to do and respect it. In reality, all of them are really good and know the time we spend at the rink. And that’s true especially during camp; they know we spend a lot of hours here getting things ready for them.”
Every season is a long journey but the Stars are in good shape with Sumner, Davidson-Adams and Soetaert helping them prepare.
“We’re ready to go,” Sumner said. “It’s time for hockey season.”