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

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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.

Wally Green Monster Skate SharpeningAfter a few years being one of the more vocal students in the balcony, I actually got a job working in the arena and from there was asked by the equipment manager at the time to help pack some bags. After that I never looked back. I spent every spare moment in the equipment room learning anything I could! After a few months of observing, I was asked to help with the women’s team and travel with them. That was my big break!

After that first road trip I knew I found my career. After that season with the girls I accepted a job at Sacred Heart University in the fall of 2009 with both their men’s and women’s programs. I spent a season in Fairfield, CT and then it was off to Syracuse University to work with the Orange Women’s program. I figured I had found my spot when I was there, it was so far the best single season I’ve had yet but things have funny ways of working out and after a year in Syracuse I was offered a position to return to Orono in the summer of 2011 to take over for my mentor and work with the men and women back in Maine. That’s where I’m at now in what I can truly call my dream job. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than right here in my cramped and cozy equipment room in Orono.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

That’s a really tough one, I have a long list but I think at the top would have to be the people. Not only the student athletes I feel lucky be around every day but also the fellow support staff, coaches, alumni, and fans of the programs. I’ve made some amazing friendships because of this career and I can’t imagine anything else. There is no better feeling than being able to turn on an NHL game and watch a few friends and former athletes living their dream and knowing I may have in some little way helped them get there. Or even just having a coffee break with our Athletic Trainer across the hallway. Hands down the best part of this job is the people

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

I think trying to figure out an answer for this one may have to rank up there on the challenge scale. It’s hard to pinpoint one aspect as I think each day brings new challenges to the table. It’s a long season and on any given day anything can become a challenge. Just like the players and coaches I can’t get too relaxed or complacent. I have to be on my toes and aware so that something little doesn’t fall through the cracks and grow into a larger issue. Staying on top of the different schedules for both teams and making sure each gets the appropriate needs met in a timely fashion is big. It’s a job filled with long hours, but I’m a glutton for punishment and if this job were easy I don’t think it would be as fun.

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

I have yet to really have anything super ridiculous come through my doors. A lot of high-maintenance players – but all with pretty solid reasons for getting stuff worked on or tweaked and nothing entertaining. Had a few guys with weird habits in the locker room that have caused me some extra work. One player would, on some occasions, drink Sprite or ginger ale either before or during games so there were times I’d have to send a student worker or scratch up to the concession stand and buy a soda. For the most part, though, the players I have worked with are easy going and boring when it comes to requests. I’m sure I’ll have a good one come up sometime though.

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

Everyone knows the old adage that goes “with duct tape and WD-40 you can fix anything.” Well, add in non-waxed skate laces and I think you have the solution to all the world’s problems. I’m pretty lucky that I haven’t really had to test my skills too much when it comes to quick fixes of major issues but when the occasional pad or whatever decides to go I’m pretty good and coming up with new and creative ways to fix them with a lace.

What gear is in YOUR bag?

No gear for me other than shorts, a polo and a ball cap. I ended up giving my skates to a friend a while back. What I take to the bench these days has gotten a little more efficient from when I first started. Set of screw drivers, pliers, scissors, knife, assortment of screws and other hardware for helmets, skates, goalie pads. A few laces and then my new favoirte toy – the Edge Again system. No more stone and “sweet stick” for me. Everything else you think I would need I keep just off the bench for easy access and it usually allows me more space to work rather than trying to get a goalie pad re-strapped on the bench.

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