Interview with Paul Boyer, Detroit Red Wings Equipment Manager

Today’s installment of “Five Questions”  brings us Paul Boyer, the Head Equipment Manager for the Detroit Red Wings. Our good friends at Warrior Hockey somehow convinced Paul to subject himself to our line of questioning, so big props to Warrior for helping us out on this one. Paul is in his 16th season as equipment manager after joining the Wings in the 1994-95 season after two seasons with the New Jersey Devils.  A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Paul earned a bachelor of science degree from Lake Superior State University in Michigan, then spent five years as the school’s hockey trainer before heading to the National Hockey League. Paul was also selected to work the 2002 NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles and is currently in his third term as president of the Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers (SPHEM). This is a busy dude, people!

Lots of people probably ask you this, but how did you make it into the NHL?

Being at the NCAA Regionals and NCAA Finals with Lake Superior State, I was able to meet and get to know some of the vendors that cover both NHL and NCAA teams.  The late Ray Jones, who was with Bauer at the time, previously worked with New Jersey’s AHL affiliate and still had strong ties to that team.  He called me and let me know that the Devils were looking for an Assistant Equipment Manager and thought I should send my resume to them.  I was hired a few weeks later, spent one season (93-94) in Jersey and really learned the NHL.  I headed back to the Devils for a second season and then got a call in late August from then Athletic Trainer John Wharton from the Red Wings letting me know that the Head Equipment Job was open.

Tell me the best and worst part of your job, in all its glorious and un-glorious detail!

Best part is working with so many great people, players and staff alike.  I have made so many friends over the years.  The worst part is being away from my family and missing all of the social and sporting events that my family does throughout the season.

Those Lake Superior teams in the early ‘90s were dominant! I know because I did play-by-play for Kent State back then and saw it first-hand. Rolston, Lacher, Beddoes, Valicevic, Alvey – a good group there. How does managing a D1/CCHA team vs. an NHL team compare?

At LSSU, I was not responsible for any of the purchasing.  My good friend and mentor Gil Somes ran the Equipment Room for the entire Athletic Dept. With the Red Wings, I am responsible for all of the purchases as well as the day to day of our locker room.  I also have two Assistants that work with me.  At the end of the day, the jobs are very similar, there is just more responsibility in the NHL.

Equipment manager seems like a vast term. Is there a role in your job that a lot of people say “you have to do THAT, too?”

Myself and my assistants are responsible for the day to day operations of what needs to be done in the locker room.  Besides the traditional duties of skate sharpening and equipment maintenance, I am responsible for the purchasing of all supplies (except medical supplies) that we need on a daily basis. Purchases of skates, gloves, toiletries, towels, coffee, etc – all fall under the Equipment Manager’s umbrella.  We are also responsible for making sure that the locker room is ready on a daily basis. That includes coordinating cleaning after practices, changing light bulbs qne making sure the heating and cooling are operating properly.  The home team is also responsible for providing service to the visiting team when they are in town.  The home team is responsible for doing the laundry and towels the visitors use, too.  We are also responsible for supplying everything they need as well, coffee, towels, toiletries and tape – just to name a few. Equipment Managers also assist the travel coordinator in giving advice on which rinks to skate at on the road if the game rinks are not available.   The home team is responsible for pickup and delivery of the visitors equipment to and from the airport.  This is the job of one of the assistants.

Tell us more about your role as president of the Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers (SPHEM) – what does that entail?

One of the main tasks is to help coordinate the annual meetings with the Project Manager (Anita Ramsay), the President of PHATS, (Ray Tufts, San Jose Sharks) and the Executive Committees. We have to make sure that all of the booths are sold to the vendors who wish to exhibit their goods.  We coordinate the Hall Of Fame dinner as well as make sure the various committees are following through annually on fulfilling their tasks so as a group we can move forward. The President listens to suggestions that members bring forward all season long and sets the topics and agenda that will be discussed and voted on by the membership. The President also acts as a point person for the NHL if it needs any special requests carried out such as compiling equipment specific data that may be used to give the league a better idea of what players are wearing and doing.

What was the last thing that made you laugh really hard?

During the second TV break of Game 4 in the San Jose series, Jimmy Howard looked at me, smiled, and said, “I need an oil change!”

Given we’re a large hockey retailer, we have to ask: what brand skate and what brand stick will you find most on the Detroit bench?

Our players use mostly Bauer skates, both the Vapor 60 and the new TotalOne.  Sticks are scattered.  There really is not a dominant stick that the majority of  the players use.   We are spread out among the major brands.  I chalk it up to good relationships between sales reps and the players.

Big thanks to Paul Boyer for taking the time to chat with us. Stick around on our blog for more great interviews! Bookmark us, subscribe, RSS, XML, BLAH, etc etc. Also, an extra big thanks to Warrior for helping us line up Paul for the interview. Those new Bully gloves will be in our stores soon and we will be carrying the most color variations out there – and there are some sweet ones!

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