Hockey Checklist: Affordable Ways to Get Back Into the Game

mens league

I took a three-year hockey hiatus before recently joining a men’s league and, like you, was in need of buying some new gear. The task of finding new equipment was somewhat daunting. I had some of the basics like skates, helmet and stick, but needed to fill in the rest. There are plenty of different options out there to choose from, but saving money and getting the best bang for your buck is what I was looking for.

Although once a B-level player, the many years away from the rink had me almost back to basics. I am now a C level player, but initially started back in a C/D level — so coming to that reality was first and foremost. Second was to get the necessities, get signed up for a league, and get back on the ice asap.

From speaking to many upper-echelon players, I think the A/B player is all about gloves, sticks and skates. The style, the look, the improved technology and overall performance. Players in those upper-levels can really feel the updates in those pieces of equipment and really distinguish the subtle difference — and ultimately improve his/her game.

While fun to shop for the top-of-the-line pieces of hockey gear and trying to emulate your favorite NHL player, the C/D player won’t necessarily need these expensive items just yet. Sure the newest technologies may help some, but overall, spending the money elsewhere in more a more frugal fashion is what we’re after. Here’s a few tips that I did on two occasions: once about four years ago, and the other just a few months ago. These tips helped save me hundreds.



The Equipment Office: SUNY Plattsburgh’s Alex Montalbano


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

My background as a player is 16 years of youth hockey, mostly house league, but still 16 good years of playing hockey. I also coached for 3 years at the end of my playing career, so it was definitely nice to give back a little bit to the kids. As for my background as an equipment manager, working at Plattsburgh State is my first EQ job, but it’s definitely proven to be a great opportunity.

Plattsburgh State Locker Room

Plattsburgh State Locker Room

I got into equipment managing through a friend of mine, Eric Poelma, who was the previous equipment manager at Plattsburgh State. He was coming up to his senior year of college and needed an assistant he could train in order to take over for him when he graduated in May. So he just shot me a text asking me if I wanted to come up to Plattsburgh and work for the team, and the rest is history after that. Last season (12-13) was my first year doing it, just being an assistant, learning anything and everything I could about the job, and then this season (13-14) was my second year, but first year doing it on my own. It definitely provided some unique challenges but in the end it’s definitely been a rewarding experience, and I’m enjoying my time in the job so far.


The Equipment Office: Univ. of Maine Hockey’s Kevin Ritz


U Maine Hockey Equipment Manager

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

My background actually starts as a fan. I have never played the game in any organized form and can hardly skate myself, but I have always been a fan of the game. I grew up going to the Albany River Rats games as a kid and when I was looking at where to go to school I knew I wanted to go somewhere with a D1 hockey program so that on weekends I would have some entertainment. I ended up coming to Maine as an undergrad for a few reasons but the atmosphere at the Alfond and the allure of the team helped push me to Orono.


The Equipment Office: Providence College Hockey’s Corey Rastello


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