From the bowels

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

We know all about the playoff whiteouts and the Avco Cup championships. We've revisited the rivalry with the Russians, the brawls with Birmingham and the final, heart-wrenching farewell to the Jets.

But for every public moment at the Winnipeg Arena over the years, there are countless stories from behind the scenes.

As part of The Sun's ongoing Arena Memories series, we spoke with two people who worked in the bowels of the old barn for years: former Jets stick-boy Jorg Achenbach and ex-equipment manager Craig Heisinger.

Achenbach, now a staffer with the Moose, was 13 years old when he began volunteering as a stick-boy in 1980.

He still remembers teammates nailing Jets forward Perry Turnbull's shoes to the floor, or cranking up the volume on defenceman Jim Kyte's hearing aids while he was taking a shower. Kyte would put the hearing aids back on, and the fun would begin.

"You'd walk up to him and go, 'Hey, Jimmy!' -- and he'd jump, it was so loud," Achenbach recalled.

One of Achenbach's favourite pranks involved Jason Doig, a Jets defenceman in 1995-96.

Back then, teams would hold a skills competition, and Doig went out for the hardest shot event, unaware teammates had sawed halfway through the shaft of all three of his sticks, down near the blade.

With some 10,000 fans watching, Doig would take a slapshot -- and the blade would go further than the puck.

Doig would go back for another stick, and the same thing would happen.

"Guys are falling off the bench, laughing," Achenbach said.

To this day, he says Doig doesn't know he was set up.

Achenbach dealt with his share of superstitious players, too.

ASKED FOR ANOTHER

There was Edmonton goalie Grant Fuhr's insistence there be a Coke and a Gatorade on the right-hand side of his dressing-room stall after every period.

Once, Achenbach put them on the left side by mistake. Fuhr pretended they weren't there, and asked for another one.

"He drank three or four before a game, (too)," Achenbach said. "For the sugar rush."

There was Wayne Gretzky's ritual of having baby powder sprinkled on the outside of his stick blade, to keep ice from forming on it.

Or Guy Lafleur's habit of getting to the rink hours before game-time and smoking a full pack of cigarettes, before lacing up his skates and smoking the opposition.

Maple Leafs goalie Mike Palmateer's post-game routine would include a cigarette in his catching hand, a beer for the blocker side.

These days you can't even light up in the rink, but back then Achenbach would do pre-game cigarette runs to the concession stands for Jets star Dale Hawerchuk.

Achenbach has a not-so-fond Mike Keenan memory, too: the volatile head coach, then with Philadelphia, once drop-kicked a 20-litre Gatorade barrel off a table in the middle of the dressing room.

"The Gatorade was all over the place," Achenbach said. "I remember (Flyers goalie) Ron Hextall saying to him, 'You're a (expletive) idiot.'"

That's what Heisinger felt like after one of his first games back in 1988, when he almost gave Jets GM John Ferguson a concussion.

After a Jets loss, someone told Heisinger to close the dressing room door, but he thought he was supposed to lock it.

"I didn't realize that after we lost Fergie would come barreling through it," Heisinger recalled. "And it's bolted shut. He almost put his foot and head through it."

And almost put the boots to Heisinger, no doubt.

That door will likely be one of the things salvaged from the old rink.

No doubt most of the memories will be, too.


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