SUN Hockey Pool

'Replacement equipment' a player's worst nightmare

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

Some people lose their mind if they lose their favourite jacket, so the Edmonton Oilers can't imagine how the Minnesota Wild felt after watching their hockey gear go up in flames.

The Wild had to break in new stuff the day of the game, -- last night's 4-1 loss in Ottawa -- which is unheard of in this day and age.

For good reason.

"I think in general we all like our equipment a certain way," said defenceman Sheldon Souray.

"Some guys have had their pads forever ... you just get comfortable, it's your uniform. You get in and out of it two times a day most days, so it just becomes like your favourite pair of shoes.

"It can be an awkward and uncomfortable couple of days trying to break in new stuff. It's definitely a pain in the rear end."

And the feet, and the legs and the shoulders ...

"You put new stuff on and it just feels chunky and stiff."

For guys who've been wearing the same gear for years, it becomes irreplaceable.

"Marty Brodeur has this old chest protector he's probably had them since junior," Souray said of his former New Jersey Devils teammate.

"If you have to replace them, the new ones are quite different.

"Like my shoulder pads -- they don't make these kind of shoulder pads anymore, They're all bigger and bulkier. And skates are obviously a really important thing."

Some players need forever to break in a new pair, wearing them in practice for weeks before they debut them in a game, so cracking open a box and wearing them the same night is a foot full of blisters waiting to happen.

"The hardest hardest thing for players is new skates," said Oilers equipment manager Barrie Stafford. "It's an NHL game, not a practice."

A lot of teams, including Minnesota, have duplicate sets of equipment at their practice rink so the trainers don't have to lug it back and forth every game.

The Wild had a trainer fly from Ottawa back to Minnesota on Friday night, grab the backup stuff (except for the skates, which they always take on the road and were subsequently burned in the fire), and return to Ottawa in time for yesterday's morning skate.

"All the trainers (from around the NHL) are calling (Wid equipment manager) Tony Dacosta," said Stafford.

"He must have had 5000 phone calls. For him to get those guys on the ice is an amazing thing."

Since the Oilers practice and play at the same place, they don't have duplicate sets of gear hanging somewhere.

If Edmonton's truck went up in flames, they'd be in much worse shape than the Wild.

Stafford has a stash of shoulder pads and shins pads and the like in his storage room, but it's still in the plastic.

"They'd have to wear new stuff," he said.


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