Monday, August 27, 2012

Exclusive interview with Red Wings Equipment Manager Paul Boyer

Boyer, left, with former captain Nick Lidstrom (Photo credit Dave Reginek)

Back in May, I alluded to something cool that may be happening on this very site in the near future in my post about the Wings' equipment sale. Today, I'm thrilled to be able to post the end result.

Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer is well known by diehard Detroit followers, having spent almost two decades behind the bench. He graciously agreed to do an exclusive interview for The Octopi Garden during the equipment sale at Hockeytown Authentics. We spoke at length, and I would like to thank Mr. Boyer again for making this happen. Enjoy.

Walk us through what a typical home gameday is like for you and your staff.
Depends on what happens the night before. If it’s a practice day and I got the skates sharpened, I won’t have to be in til 8 or 8:30 AM. If I don’t, I get in there about 6 AM and start sharpening for morning skate. Then I wait for players to get in and start handling the needs of the players when they get in. Normally the salesmen that come in like the Bauer rep, the Warrior rep, the Easton rep I deal with them and react to whatever they need. If there’s any big emergencies I’ll stick around and do it, if not I sneak out for a quick bite to eat, pick up my kids from school and I’m back around 4 PM.

That’s the best time to meet, the afternoon before a game. With players, the reps, as equipment manager I’m in charge of handling what the reps need.

I’ve always said there’s three days in hockey; gameday, practice day, and a day off. Your routine depends on what kind of day it is.

Could you discuss the challenge that back-to-back games pose for an equipment manager?
It’s just two games, depends on whether it’s two home games back-to-back, which is pretty rare. It depends on how many games you go for. It’s a routine, like waking up in the morning. You just know that after the game you have to line up the sticks…the players know the routine. They know the routine. We’re in constant communication with them. We’ll tell them it’s this many games, you need this many sticks. My staff will pull the duffel bags, and the guys come in and drop their stuff right in the bags. Then we load them onto the truck and it’s off to the airport.

Who is the most superstitious about their equipment, and in what way?
I do not speak about players and their superstitions (laughs). You can quote me on that.

What challenges does an outdoor game like the Winter Classic pose to you and your staff?
We were lucky at Wrigley Field because the weather cooperated. The weather’s been the biggest hurdle. If you get a rainy day like they had in Pittsburgh that year that hurts. I heard a league official say that shouldn’t have even been played. It’s dangerous for the guys. We were lucky it was cold and overcast [in 2009], and that’s what you’re looking for. You just keep talking to your weatherman and hope it will line up that way. The league has done it so many times they’re very organized and easy to work with. I remember a lot of stuff from our last game. Just keeping the guys warm, and Reebok does a good job of that. You make sure you have some eye black, grab some handwarmers, and we know we can use tinted visors now.

A great deal of debate about equipment has taken place in light of the NHL’s commitment to reducing head injuries.  What, if any, changes do you feel need to be made to enhance player safety?
Not many. The stuff we’re using is very protective. Bauer, Warrior, Easton, all the companies have great helmets. The manufacturers are all up to date on the technology. The equipment provided to us and approved for use by the NHL is good, quality equipment. As equipment managers we’re looking for anything we can to keep players safe. Mouth guards have really come a long way. Under Armour’s bite guard technology has helped, with that bite lock technology so players can breathe easier,  that with a good helmet is great. Everyone is better educated, and we know better how to keep our players safe. The players know too. 

Being on the bench, you have a vantage point that few share. Any interesting Scotty Bowman or Mike Babcock stories you can tell us?
None. I’ll let Dave Lewis tell those. Lewie’s a better story teller than me. Working with Scotty Bowman, Mike Babcock, Jacques Lemaire; you really see the passion these guys have, they love coming to work every day. That’s what makes the difference

What do you see as the single greatest advancement in equipment since you started working in hockey?
The composite stick. It has to be the composite stick. It allows players to pass faster, harder. It’s brought everything to a new level. Off-ice it’s guys being educated. The players are bigger, stronger, faster. That’s a change nobody really sees. You can’t wrap your hands around a workout. You most certainly can see what it’s doing to the guys. They’re bigger, stronger, faster, and they move easier. I see guys working with skating coaches here in Detroit. You can see they want to get better.

You’ve been on the bench for some the greatest moments in Red Wings history, including four Stanley Cup championships. What is your favorite memory from the past 16 seasons?
That '97 championship was great. It was the first one for everyone involved, from Mr. Illitch to Steve Yzerman to me. Growing up in Canada you see guys like Guy Lafleur holding the cup, and then once you get in the game you want to win the Cup. Like Ken Holland says, once you win it you don’t want to let it go. That’s what keeps you going. 

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