I’ve long gotten over the “you’re-going-to-be-around-a-lot-of-big-sweaty-dudes” aspect of working around a locker room, but at our game on October 10, I took it to another level.
At the end of every period, you’ll find me in the player tunnel, stopping select players as they exit the ice and setting up “walk-off” interviews with MSG-Plus, visiting TV, WRHU and the Islanders in-house scoreboard feed.
I greet the player with a sympathetic look (“I’m sorry, but you’ve been chosen”), a Gatorade towel and a cup of water. The player responds with a less sympathetic look (“Are you kidding me? We’re trying to win a hockey game”) and he hands me a pile of sweaty equipment.
Having done the exchange several times a game for the last few seasons, I’ve become fairly proficient at tucking a player’s sopping-wet gloves into his inverted helmet and cradling the dry, plastic shell in my palm. Grab the stick in my other hand and I’m golden.
Last game, a nameless player threw a new wrinkle into the equation. The exchange started out routinely. I stared him down, eager to make eye contact and give him a quick nod towards the TV camera. He rolled his eyes and started shedding his gloves and helmet.
Then out came the mouthguard.
Before I had time to think, I was bare-handing that slimy sucker.
As usual, Equipment Manager Scott Boggs swept by to collect whatever gear I’d accumulated. Completely un-phased, he snatched the curved piece of rubber out from the puddle forming in my hand and disappeared into the locker room.
Later I told Boggsy, “That’s love.”
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