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Unsung hero: Huskies women’s hockey equipment manager Dave Westbury

By in Sports & Health
U of S Huskies women’s hockey team equipment manager Dave Westbury tightens the laces of a skate beside the skate sharpener in Merlis Belsher Place on Feb. 19, 2019.

If the Huskies athletes on the women’s hockey team are the diamonds on the dial of a watch, showing off their skills on the ice, then equipment manager Dave Westbury is definitely one of the gears, working diligently behind the scenes to make sure their equipment is looked after.

Finishing up his ninth year as the equipment manager of the Huskies women’s hockey team, Westbury was initially recruited by head coach Steve Kook to train athletes by reviewing their performance footage with them. Kook later asked whether he was willing to learn how to sharpen skates as the women’s team had no one looking after this task.

Westbury was hesitant at first but fell in love with the art of skate sharpening immediately. Westbury’s coaching role quickly transitioned into equipment management. Westbury gives full credit to his mentor Peter Herd, the equipment manager of the Huskies men’s hockey team, for teaching him skate sharpening.

“You could say I learn from the best in the world or one of the best in the world,” Westbury said. “[Herd] has definitely been around for a long time and has learned a lot of things that he’s passed … on to me.”

With a full-time job outside his role with the Huskies from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, Westbury habitually arrives at Merlis Belsher Place at around 5 p.m. on a practice day. Tasks vary day by day, but Westbury typically accommodates the players and coaches with stick replacement, skate sharpening and equipment repair.

Westbury usually leaves the rink at around 8 or 9 p.m. However, when the sharpener is loaded with skates the night before a game, he has to work until midnight to ensure all of them are well-prepared.

During a game, Westbury stands beside the bench and prepares for contingencies in the middle of a play: from handing spare sticks to players to quickly mending equipment, such as tightening screws up on a helmet or changing the steel of a skate, so none of the players miss a shift due to equipment malfunctions.

“The old saying is ‘no missed shifts,’” Westbury said. “And that’s our goal here, too. We don’t want anybody to miss a shift.”

Another responsibility of Westbury’s is to pack up all the necessities for road games — including snacks and refreshments for the players, work tools, video gear and spare jerseys. Westbury, who hasn’t missed a regular-season road game in nine years, also double checks the dressing room before leaving to confirm that the players are bringing the equipment needed.

A challenge arises for Westbury when the team flies — most often to Vancouver to play the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. If the team travels with all of the equipment, it will be costly as it has to be loaded as cargo, forcing Westbury to downsize. For example, instead of bringing a set of screwdrivers and a lot of pliers, he packs a multi-purpose screwdriver and takes only a couple of pliers.

Despite having to work for long hours and on many weekends, Westbury does not complain as he says that equipment management is his passion.

“I love it — wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it,” Westbury said. “It goes with anything in life: if you are not happy with what you are doing, there’s no point in doing it.”

Westbury loves everything about his job, especially the friendships he has formed with the staff and the players over the years.

“I like everything about it. I like the intensity of the game, the comradery with the players and the coaches, the training staff, and also, the athletic staff,” Westbury said. “The girls treat me awesome, [and] I treat them awesome, too — the respect goes both ways, right?”

Westbury is also proud of how well Huskie Athletics takes care of the players.

“When they’re in the classroom, we want them to be focused on school. When they are at the rink, [we want them] focused on playing, not worrying about [anything else],” Westbury said. “The girls are on scholarships: Sticks are looked after. Equipment is looked after. When they’re on the road, they’re not paying for meals. Our girls are looked after very well.”

“I guess I can brag a little bit about Huskie Athletics being an awesome organization,” Westbury said. “Everybody from the top to down is awesome. It’s definitely an enjoyment to be around the facilities all the time.”

Westbury dreams of becoming an equipment manager for an NHL franchise. But for now, his ultimate goal is to win a national championship with the Huskies.

“I hope that what we do for the players gives us that extra edge to win a national championship,” Westbury said. “We’ve won Canada West, but still, to be the number one in the country is the ultimate goal.”

Heywood Yu

Photo: Heywood Yu

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