Athletes are creatures of habit. They need to be to stay focused on the game at hand. Which is why their travel, meals, naps and at least some of their free time, is often extremely regimented.
That goes for their equipment, too. Unless it doesn’t.
A longform article on the Islanders website by Sasha Kandrach sheds some light on the some of the players’ particular peccadillos about their sticks, gloves, skates, pads and anything else. It’s a fascinating look at how these professionals view and use their tools, and gives a ton of insight into who’s the pickiest and who’s the most passive.
What’s perhaps most fascinating is that some guys are really chill about one thing but super crazy about another. Take Uncle Leo here:
While Komarov may be flexible and open-minded with his sticks, he’s set in his ways after pinpointing the precise dimensions desired for his blades’ daily filing.
”Skates have to be perfect,” Komarov said. “I get them sharpened every day and as needed during intermissions.”
Intermissions must be a tense 15-17 minutes for the Islanders’ equipment staff. No surprise that slick Mat Barzal likes his tires rotated frequently, too.
“My skates need to be sharpened after the second period of every game,” Barzal said. “I usually get them switched once or twice a game. My skates need to feel a certain way and need to be square.”
Another guy who makes frequent changes during games is Johnny Boychuk, whose meathooks require dry gloves ever five minutes or so.
Gloves, however, are the single item out of Boychuk’s consistent ensemble in which he requests additional - and sometimes immediate - attention to.
”I go through multiple pairs [per game],” Boychuk provided. “When your hands get wet, your hands start to slip off of your stick especially when you’re shooting. That’s the main reason why I always switch my gloves during every TV timeout.”
Damn, JB. But that’s nothing compared to Brock “Dr. Claw” Nelson, who apparently chews through gloves so easily that he goes through about 15 PAIRS a season. That feels like a lot.
Sticks, of course, are always a hot topic, with some players getting granular when it comes to the lengths or curves of their twigs. Anthony Beauvillier writes a special life message (how Trotzian of him) on his sticks going back to his youth hockey days, while other guys fiddle and get finicky with them. Even they sometimes don’t understand why.
“Sticks I’m funny with,” Eberle said. “I have different heights. Some days you feel taller than others. That’s all it is. You’ve got to find the right one. I just have three different heights. It’s miniscule though, we’re talking millimeters or centimeters in difference. On a certain day, eventually you’ll grab a stick and it clicks and you’re like, ‘That’s the one!’ It’s hard to explain, but yeah [I do it] during warmups. If you watch, Barzy does it too, we just keep going back and switching them out until I find the one that I want.
Of course, no Islander is more connected to his equipment than Anders Lee, whose half-chewed mouthguard is like Captain America’s shield; no picture of him would be complete without it.
If there’s one piece of gear that gets chewed through in no time for Isles captain Anders Lee - and has become an identifier of sorts - it’s his mouthguard.
”I probably go through eight to 15 [mouthguards per season],” Lee disclosed. “They get pretty worn down. [The equipment staff and team dentist] aren’t that happy with me, but it is what it is.
Be careful with those things, Cap.
Anders Lee was celebrating his goal when his mouthguard fell out of his mouth.— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 7, 2020
Being the great teammate that he is, Derick Brassard caught it and put it back in for him. pic.twitter.com/R93zytXJrG
The whole article is super interesting and nearly every Islander is accounted for. It’s a cool look at the details that are either unknown or happening right below the surface and go unnoticed by the vast majority of fans.
Then again, maybe somethings are best left unnoticed. Like Josh Bailey’s everlasting hockey pants.
I’m pretty particular about the way everything feels, the equipment guys know that, I’ve been here for my whole career. They’ve forced me to change pants a few times over the years, but for the most part I’ve kept everything the same over the years or as long as I can.