Burnaby's hard working training staff is featured on the BCHL website.
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Up Close with the Burnaby Express training staff
Friday, February 6, 2009 - Submitted by Ben Lypka
Tim Holloway angrily throws his stick to the ground and grimaces in pain, holding his right shoulder. It’s only 2 minutes into the Burnaby Express’s game against the Surrey Eagles and the frustration on Holloway’s face could very well be a combination of pain, guilt and realization that his BCHL season might be cut short.
Holloway paces back and forth in the tunnel adjacent to the player’s bench and curses his fate. Luckily, Express trainer Wayne Hubbard is there to ease the young man’s worries. Wayne follows him to the tunnel and immediately begins checking for exactly what type of damage has been done to Holloway’s shoulder.
Wayne Hubbard has been a fixture in the BCHL since the league formed in the late 1960s. He has literally seen and done it all in his position, and he’s also helped shape the careers and lives of some great players. Joe Sakic, Kyle Turris and Milan Lucic all had their hockey career touched by Wayne and it’s safe to assume that he’s also positively affected the lives of hundreds of young men throughout his tenure as a trainer.
“I hear from kids all the time that I used to train when we go on road trips to places like Quesnel or Victoria,” said Hubbard. “I don’t really remember who they are initially but once they tell me their name it’s easy to remember.”
Indeed, the number of lives that Wayne has touched throughout his career is impressive but with players like Sakic, Turris and Lucic, he sensed something special from the start.
“Joe is a really classy kid and humble,” said Wayne. “Turris is the same way. Lucic and I are still friends, the other day he sent me a message on Facebook asking me how things are going.”
However, the life of a trainer is not all glory. Wayne grudgingly admits that a great deal of his time is spent up by a rather tedious task – laundry.
There are at least four loads of laundry to be done every day, even on days when the Express don’t play. On game days, Wayne becomes well acquainted with the washer and dryer as he completes 12 loads for a home game and eight for a road game.
“I generally arrive at the rink pretty early in the morning,” said Wayne. “And laundry seems to take up the majority of my time.”
Fortunately, Wayne has the ability to dole out tasks to his colleagues, Patrick Townley and Grant Ammann. The Express are unique in that they have three staff members who are highly trained and qualified to deal with almost anything a team could be faced with in a game situation. From injuries to equipment issues and moral support, Burnaby’s three-headed monster of Hubbard, Townley and Ammann do a tremendous job in preparing their players.
Patrick Townley is the equipment manager by title but he is truly a jack-of-all-trades. His on the job training with Wayne has molded him into an expert on all aspects of hockey.
Starting as a stick boy in 1994, Townley has worked for a number of organizations in the BCHL but he has really fit in well with the Express. Originally joining the team when it was based in Coquitlam, Patrick has learned a great deal from Wayne – who appreciates having him around.
“Patrick has a full-time day job and he works here with us in the evenings and weekends,” said Wayne. “He is a huge help to this team and is highly qualified.”
Express star forward Garrick Perry agrees: “Pat is incredibly dedicated but he’s really one of the guys.”
Perry and Townley have a very amicable relationship but it goes beyond that. Townley recently taught Perry how to sharpen skates and now the Express forward insists on the do-it-yourself method. It’s a skill that Perry will carry with him his whole life and something Townley didn’t have to do but it helped strengthen that particular relationship.
“It’s all about trust,” said Townley. “It’s really a give and take relationship with the boys but it’s overall rewarding.”
Townley, who possesses an Athletic Therapy degree, laments some of the newer equipment as it seems to be harder and harder to fix. Evn so, he loves his work. He’s a valuable cog in the Burnaby Express machine and the team wouldn’t be the same without him.
The third piece of this training triangle of talent is Grant Ammann. Grant and Wayne knew each other for many years due to the fact that Grant was a former referee of high-level hockey and they developed a rapport through that initial contact. They stayed in touch and then re-connected through the Global Sports Scouting Services group. Grant was refereeing some of the games and Wayne is the trainer for their camp in Burnaby and the two got to talking.
“Grant started going back to school and volunteered to come aboard,” said Wayne. “He expressed a lot of interest and wanted to experience being a trainer hands-on.”
The two seemed to gel quite well and so Grant was brought aboard as an official staff member. His days are extremely busy as he doubles as a personal trainer at the Performance Institute in Burnaby, but he finds the time to juggle two positions and school and is succeeding.
“Training is 80% psychology and 20% technical knowledge,” said Wayne. “Grant has an incredible amount of technical knowledge but he’s still learning the psychology. You need to know when to give and take, when to be tough but that will only come with time. I believe Grant is going to make a great trainer one day.”
Learning from Wayne certainly couldn’t hurt.
The achievement Wayne is most proud about is winning gold with Team Canada West during the World Junior A Challenge in 2007.
“It was a great experience,” said Wayne. “Hockey Canada knows how to put on a show. There were fans hanging from everywhere in Trail, it was a packed house and overall it was a wonderful experience.”
Particularly impressive was the fact that the Express owners chipped in and purchased a championship ring for Wayne, a token of appreciation for the tremendous work he did for the team in their drive to a title.
The 2008-09 season has been a trying one, to say the least, for the Burnaby Express. They’ve been near the bottom of the Mainland Division for most of the year and have been absolutely decimated by injuries.
“It’s been the worst season I’ve ever seen for injuries,” said Wayne. “It’s truly been a bizarre year.”
Wayne added that ordinarily there is a large rush of injuries in January but the Express has been struggling with health issues all year long and have yet to ice a full lineup all season. The injuries have kept Wayne, Patrick and Grant extremely busy but the Express unquestionably appreciate their hard work.
“Our trainers are such a valuable part of our team,” said Express assistant coach Jason Fothergill. “They do so much people don’t see and are extremely dedicated.”
A healthy relationship with a head coach is crucial for a trainer and Wayne has a lot of respect for Express head coach Dave McLellan.
“Dave is great; he doesn’t question our authority,” said Wayne. “My attitude towards coach’s has always been; I don’t tell you how to coach, you don’t tell me how to train.”
Many of the Express players echo the admiration for the training staff.
“Wayne, Pat and Grant are so dedicated,” said Garrick Perry. “It’s their life.”
“This is the best group of trainers I’ve ever worked with,” said Tim Holloway.
Wayne has never really had issues with team’s pushing him to heal players or give them a clean diagnosis, most likely due to the league-wide respect that he’s built up during his career. However, he remains steadfast as to where his loyalties lie.
“My loyalty will always be with the player, as should any other good trainer,” said Wayne. “I will never knowingly put the player in jeopardy and the player’s health is always put ahead of the team.”
Tim Holloway returns to the ice shortly after his shoulder tweak but during the intermission Grant, Wayne and Patrick decide his fate.
Holloway will finish tonight but following tonight’s game he will not play again until he begins to more frequently attend his physiotherapy sessions.
For the player, he wants to play the game he loves. He wants to play through the pain and worry about it tomorrow. For the trainers, it’s never easy to stop someone from doing something they love but sometimes the health risks just simply aren’t worth it. It’s a fine line that trainers tow each and everyday. At times they play the role of best friend, father figure and doctor all rolled up into one.
Hockey careers are fleeting but it’s not worth disability for the rest of a young man’s life. It’s these decisions that torture trainers. They want to help the team but they refuse to do so at the risk of a young man’s welfare.
Indeed, the job comes to these decisions and laundry – lots of laundry. Unfortunately in life, you can’t just rinse and repeat.