Interview With Sarah Baicker of Comcast SportsNet Philly

Sarah BaickerWe first encountered Sarah Baicker on Twitter a few months back when something happened with the Philadelphia Flyers, though I can’t really remember what it was.  I do remember she had some memorable tweets, though! Sarah is the Philadelphia Flyers reporter for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia, so she travels with the team, writes and provides TV reports on the all the Flyers news that’s fit to talk about – and there’s already been plenty to talk about this offseason.

We took a few minutes to chat with Sarah about hockey and some other stuff. Enjoy!

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The Equipment Office: Providence College Hockey’s Corey Rastello

Equipment-Manager-Logo

The second of our college hockey equipment manager series takes us to Rhode Island to chat with Providence College’s Corey Rastello.

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What’s your background as a player and equipment manager?/What made you decide to be a equipment manager?

I grew up in northern Michigan and played hockey from Kindergarten through High School and then played in a senior men’s league while attending college. I came into the world of equipment by chance. The summer after I graduated from high school in 2006 I was at the local driving range and the Associate AD at Michigan Tech asked what my plans were for college. I told him I was probably going to go to Ferris State and do the PGM program there. He told me if I wanted to, I could work in the equipment room at Michigan Tech and take some general courses.

I ended up going to Tech and working home hockey games, helping out around the locker room, learning how to sharpen skates and do basic repairs. I owe a lot to Roy Britz and Joel Isaacson for giving me the opportunity to work at Michigan Tech, Joel got my foot in the door and Roy took the time to teach me all the skills that I use today. After I graduated in 2011 I knew I still wanted to be an equipment manager, when you have a job you love you feel like you’re never “working!” I sent out e-mails to various professional equipment managers asking if they anticipated any openings for assistants, but nothing was going to open up. One day in June I got a phone call from Jamie Russell, he was the head coach at Michigan Tech when I was there and was the new assistant at Providence College. He said they were looking for a full-time equipment manager for Men’s and Women’s hockey and asked if I would be interested. After a few phone calls with Nate Leaman I went to Providence to interview and a few days later was offered the job!

I’ve been here at PC for the last three seasons with both hockey programs and have started to work with the college’s lacrosse team this year as well.
I’ve gotten the chance to travel internationally numerous times. My last year at Michigan Tech we traveled to Germany and Austria in the summer to play exhibition games against European professional teams. I’ve also worked a few tournaments for USA Hockey, in 2011. I went to Turkey with the Men’s National University team for the World University Games. I’ve also been to the IIHF Men’s Inline Hockey World Championships twice with the US and won a gold medal with them this past summer.

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What’s your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of the job is the unpredictability of everything. I know I’m going to sharpen skates and I know I’m going to be doing laundry – other than that, anything can happen; a strap can rip on a goalie pad and will need to be sewn, a holder can break on a skate and need to be replaced, a cap can break on a players shin pad and need to be replaced (if the player is comfortable in that pair of pads). Injuries can cause a need to add additional protection to skates, gloves, pants, shoulder pads, etc. Every day is unique and challenges pop up all the time, it keeps things fresh and lively.

What do you consider the most challenging part of the job?

The most challenging part of the job are the long days. I’m currently taking night classes to get my MBA so I usually have to come back to finish up laundry after class. My student manager Doug Ferry is a huge help and I can’t thank him enough for the countless hours he puts in. He will travel with the women and set up their practices and also help out with the men, lacrosse and laundry whenever possible. Our video coordinator Zach Longo also helps out with getting laundry started when he can.

Another equally daunting challenge is making sure that the players are comfortable and ready to compete day in and day out, but at the same time not spoiling them. There is a fine line between the two and I’ve been fortunate enough to work for coaching staffs who understand the need versus want mentality of the players.

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What is the oddest or most ridiculous player request or player gear habit you’ve had?

There are too many….
Habits: I’ve had kids put their sticks in some weird spots before games, some put them in the bathroom stalls or even the toilet bowl, others put them in garbage cans. A lot of kids are starting to draw stuff on their tape handles: crown’s, shooting stars, former teammates initials, crosses, etc. One girl used to separate her fruit snacks by color before games and then eat them all in a certain order. I think the strangest ritual I’ve seen is when our women’s team sings “Build me up Buttercup” and “Our House” before they go on the ice for games, I don’t understand why they do it, but if it helps them win and feel comfortable, it’s fine by me.

Requests: I’ve had a goalie ask to NOT get his helmet painted which is weird because most kids jump at the chance to design their own helmet. I’ve had another goalie request that his edges not be sharpened square on his skates so that his inside edges were taller than his outside and help him push off the post, I have a player at PC now who prefers a two piece stick, one of our goalies at Tech had me color in a stripe on his glove with a black Sharpie because he didn’t like the way the gold looked. Basically….goalies are weird. If you get a normal one, enjoy your time with him!

What was your best in-game solution or fix to get somebody with a gear/injury requirement issue back on the ice?

My first game at Providence one of our defensemen tore his jersey from the armpit down through the bottom of the jersey, straight across the stomach, and across the back. It was a nightmare, but it happened at the end of the period luckily, so I had 20 minutes to work with. I ran to the equipment room and grabbed my can of spray adhesive and one of the old white practice jerseys we use for spare fabric. I cut up the practice jersey into strips and put the adhesive on to bring the jersey back together before sewing the seams back in. By the time I finished and ran back to the locker room, the team was just heading back on the ice for the 2nd period. I could have probably just gave him the spare jersey, but most equipment managers, including myself, love a challenge.

What is in YOUR bag?

Two Sets of tape (white, black, clear, grip), wax, spare laces (96″ and 108″), hand warmers, smelling salts, rub sticks, skate stones, Blademaster Lil’ Red edge tool, 4 screw drivers, 2 nut drivers, 2 pairs of pliers, spare Bauer steel for the Edge and Lightspeed System, spare helmet and skate parts, cough drops, a pack of Extra Classic Bubble Gum, 2 towels, extra dry erase markers, extra pens, 2 pairs of scissors, Tape Tiger, Sewing Kit, Sewing Awl ready with wax thread, and a set of spare toe straps for Jon Gillies goalie pads.

Typical Day for Me

On a typical practice day I’ll work out in the morning and then get to the rink around 9:00 a.m. depending on how many repairs still need to be done from the previous day. The first thing I’ll do is start the laundry for the strength room sweat towels while I tie up loose ends from the previous day.

After that, I’ll check the mailbox and process any paperwork/invoices that need to be taken care of before checking my e-mail to get the days practice plan from coach Leaman and set the player jersey’s accordingly and then it’s lunch time. The guys start to come in around 12:30 p.m. and the girls start to arrive around 2:30 p.m., and we stand by in case any sharpening or repairs need to be done. As soon as the men get done at 4 p.m, their Jersey’s go in the wash, once everybody is done cold tubbing and getting treatments in the training room the under gear and towels go in the wash.

We do the same thing for the women when they finish at 6:00 p.m. The laundry for hockey is usually totally done by 8:00 p.m. Lacrosse has an evolving practice schedule and changes throughout the week based on player class schedules, sometimes they don’t leave until 8:30 p.m. and I will come back to the rink after my classes end at 9:30 pm to finish their laundry and make sure they are ready for the next day. We sharpen all the skates and try to do all the repairs while we do laundry so we can start with a clean slate in the morning.

Game days are much longer, I usually start around 9:00 a.m. If we’re at home I won’t leave until about midnight, if coming back from a road trip I’m usually here until 1:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m. depending on who we played that night.

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Favorite League Road Trip:

University of Vermont

Favorite College Road Trip:

University Of Wisconsin

Best Visitor Set Up:

Northern Michigan University


Interview with Iggy Tarajos: Dartmouth Hockey Equipment Manager

We had the pleasure to interview Dartmouth College Hockey Equipment Manager Iggy Tarajos. He had some great insights as to what it’s like being an equipment manager at college hockey’s highest level.

Iggy Tarajos

1. What’s your background as a player and equipment manager? What made you decide to be an equipment manager?

Well, to start, I played organized hockey for 18 years of my life and I feel hockey is the biggest commitment I’ve ever had. I played organized youth hockey in Biddeford, Maine, where I call home. I played three seasons at my respective High School in Kennebunk, ME and after high school I chose to give my talents a better shot at playing hockey at the college level, so I left my senior year to play for the Junior Pirates junior organization in Saco, ME. After four seasons on various Pirates’ clubs, I was recruited to Plymouth State University, where I played one season. After the second season, I came to the realization that my playing career was over when I was not asked back due to ability! Be that as it may, I took an opportunity to start my career as an Equipment Manager. As a child I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time as a stick boy at AHL level working under Brock Myles, who is now the Head Equipment Manager for the Washington Capitals. So I had some background in the industry and I knew I wanted to stay in the sport anyway I could. The next three seasons at Plymouth while completing my sports Management Major, I built my own office and started pouring equipment manager ideas out; things like building a sufficient, fully functional equipment room and other stuff. As you know, hockey is an intricate sport with many variables and components to each player. The armor of a hockey player is the basis of the sport and each player is a puzzle of their own. Whether you’re a speed guy, a playmaker or a checker, the gear you choose defines you as a player and without it you can be lost. This is the way I look at my job – keeping the players comfortable as well as safe is most crucial to the success of the team. Now I’m finishing up my first season working with Dartmouth Men’s Hockey and I’m very grateful for getting a job right out of school and moving up towards my ultimate goal of becoming a Professional Hockey Equipment Manager. I decided I wanted to make a career of Equipment Managing when I realized how important the position was to a team. As an ex-player I feel I know what the players are going through, so who better to be there for them then me?!

2. What’s your favorite part of the job?

Well I think that ultimately like any competitor, the best part of the job is winning. There is nothing like the feeling after a win with a group of guys knowing that everyone chipped in to do their part in getting the win for the team. From the athletic trainers to the coaching staff to the media guys, operations staff and players – everyone has a job to do. When everything goes smooth and we get the win, there’s nothing more fun.

Iggy helmet

3. What do you consider the most challenging part of the job?

I’d have to say that the most challenging part of the job is staying consistent night in and night out. Players are big on preparation routines and when something is out of place, challenges arise. It’s a long season, so staying consistent to the needs of the players from sharpening to stick cuts is important to how the player performs on the ice throughout the season.

4. What is the oddest or most ridiculous player request or player gear habit you’ve had?

When I was at Plymouth state, my second season a player asked if I had any “face moisturizer” on hand in my office. I know that the pros have toiletry items on hand at all times, but at Division III it’s very slim. The Women’s coach had a personal bottle in her office that the player used, but that was the funniest request I’ve received so far in my career.

Iggy Rivets

5. What was your best in-game solution or fix to get somebody with a gear/injury requirement issue back on the ice?

The skate edges of player are very important. When a player steps on something or loses and edge, the blade needs to be fixed so the player can skate. The new Bauer “Edge” holders have made this very helpful for equipment guys like me to replace for the players on the fly. This has changed the time frame tremendously for fixing that. Before, I would have the player unlace the skate and I’d have to run to the sharpener to sharpen the skate. Now, I get to quickly replace the steel with a snap of the Edge trigger. I’m still waiting for that goalie strap to snap mid game, but I’m pretty prepared with the tools I bring to the bench.

6. What is in YOUR bag?

I bring maybe a little more then I need to the bench and at times other equipment guys have said it’s a little excessive. I feel you always have to be prepared for whatever might happen and for the majority of rinks we go to, the benches are a long way from the locker room, sometimes even across the ice. I bring extra sharpened steel in each size with steel removal tools. I bring one style of each tape. I bring hard and soft wax. I bring two rub sticks. I bring an edge again hand sharpener. I bring a few stones, a sweet stick, and plenty of helmet screws. For tools I bring screwdrivers, scissors, pliers, thick needle and wax thread, and a lighter. Oh and super glue. So yeah, maybe excessive but I feel I’m ready for whatever comes. I also have a full spread of tools I leave by the locker room and travel with.

 

Be sure to check back on the blog for more interviews from equipment managers around the league, giving you first hand knowledge of exactly what players are looking for in their gear.

If you want to check out some more of Iggy’s day-to-day, throw him a follow on twitter @EQguy44 He’s always posting great gear photos right from the locker room.


NHL Player Interview: Mike Liut

mikeliut

Who remembers GOAL Magazine?!

Our latest installment of NHL player interviews is a little conversation with Mike Liut. For those of you over, say, 35, you know right away who Mike Liut was – one of the league’s best goaltenders, hands down, during the 1980s. For those of you who may not remember Mike, trust us, he was good. So good that he finished second only to Wayne Gretzky in Hart Trophy voting in 1981. That’s MVP of the league! Mike played thirteen seasons in the NHL for the St. Louis BluesHartford Whalers and the Washington Capitals and before his NHL career, he played in college for Bowling Green (CCHA). Mike won a variety of awards throughout his storied career in the NHL and for some reason, his hockey card back in the early 1980s was always one of my favorites! Here we go….

1. You almost won the Hart Trophy in 1980-81 as the NHL’s most valuable player. You ended up a runner-up to some guy…….let’s see……Wayne something? Gretz…….? Anyway, it’s hard to remember his name. How did you, as a 25 year old, react to being named a candidate? That must have been wild!

Mike Liut hockey card

Sick mask!

It was my second year in St. Louis; as a team we had a great regular season finishing second overall to the Islanders. I think we had 8 players who scored 20 or more goals and Wayne Babych reached the 50 goal milestone.  We invented ways to win that season, everyone pulling in the same direction and definitely a lot of fun.  When a team has that type of season, the credit can fall unevenly. It was very satisfying to be recognized in the Hart Trophy voting, finishing second to Wayne in what was, at the time, the closest balloting ever and winning (what is now) the Ted Lyndsay award from the players – that was very special.  Unfortunately, we had a very difficult first round win against the Penguins and we were forced to play 11 games in 17 days, plus overtime, which ended in a second round loss to the Rangers, a team we had beaten 4 times during the regular season. So…in the end it did not feel much like a successful season, that loss over-shadowed everything that season.

2. As a gear shop, we have to ask a couple of gear questions. Were you picky about your equipment when you played? If so, what were you most picky about?

I’m dating myself, but we really had two equipment companies, Cooper (eventually acquired by Bauer) and CCM; we did not have the luxury of being picky! I used Cooper gloves/pads and Bauer skates. The knee section wrapped around to the inside of my knee which allowed me to butterfly – most goalies played a stand-up style – so the Cooper equipment fit my style and once I found equipment that worked I would stay with it.  I used Bauer skates and John Brown arm gear for my entire career also.

3. That said, who in your career was the MOST picky about equipment? Forwards or goalies apply.

I am not sure any of us had the luxury of being picky, the options were just as shallow for skaters.  I think players spent their time on their sticks; everyone (scorer or otherwise) shaved, torched and taped their sticks to perfection; you can do that with wood!  There – I dated myself again!

Liut, Michael

This man stopped a lot of rubber.

4. As you look back, is there a single moment or game in your career that you find the most memorable?

I was privileged to have had a long career, but the highs and lows of a career meld together unless you win the Cup.  The team and league awards/milestones are great, but winning is the only statistic that matters, so its the only truly memorable moment.  During my 15 year career the Canadiens, Islanders, Oilers, and Penguins won 14 of the 15 Stanley Cups with the Flames winning the other one on a bit of a fluke, if you remember, when they upset the Oilers.

(editors note: oh, we remember!)

5. You are a second cousin to Hall-of-Famer Ron Francis, whom you played with in Hartford. Were you guys close growing up? If so, there must have been some hellacious backyard hockey games going on. Who got the better of who?

Ron and I actually grew up 500 miles and seven years apart so we did not grow up knowing each other.  My dad saw Ron play when he was playing midget for the Soo and that is when I became aware of him (I think it was my second pro season and Dad said he would be in the NHL shortly – I think 3 years later).  As I was seven years older, I think I would have gotten the better of him based on age, but Ron was playing on those Penguin teams that won the Cup and I was with the Caps…..he definitely got the better of me then!

6. Now in your post-player days as an agent with Octagon, we’re sure you find a lot of satisfaction in the success of the players you represent on and off the ice. Did you always know that you’d be involved in hockey after your playing days? What do you think you would have done for a career had hockey not been an option?

I attended law school immediately after my career finished, which I had somewhat thought about while in college, but the opportunity was presented to me and I was encouraged to go in that direction.  I think I always thought I would stay connected to hockey (I turned down jobs at ESPN and with an NHL team as a goalie coach to attend law school); hockey is a passion to play and compete. With the friendships that you develop, it is hard to walk away from it completely.  If I had not joined Octagon I would have practiced law in Michigan, but I think I would have had a touch with hockey as part of that law practice as opposed to being fully embedded in hockey and touching the law in support of our hockey clients or in some of the other non-hockey roles I have filled with Octagon.

Big thanks to Mike for taking the time to chat with us. So cool.