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Anyone who works in pro sports knows there’s no such thing as 9-5. In a condensed working year where full-time hours can be crammed into nine or ten months, days can be long.|
For Assistant Equipment Trainer, Brian “Red” Hamilton long days and nights are just par for the course.
“The hours are long but it works out in the end,” says Hamilton. “When you count up all 365 days in the year, it works out. We’re playing 17 of 21 at home right now so I’ve been at the rink a lot. I try to get here between 7:30 and 8 (a.m.) on a game day.
If teams aren’t leaving, I’ll be home by 11 that night. But I have to be back here by 7:30 or 8 the next day again if teams are practicing. A lot of times I won’t get back from the airport until late so I’ll just sleep here. There are many, many times where I go to work on Thursday and I come home on Saturday.”
Without Hamilton and the rest of the trainers, things would get pretty messy around General Motors Place. Literally. The equipment managers, headed by Pat O’Neill and filled out with Jamie Hendricks and Hamilton, are responsible for the upkeep of the equipment and facilities around the locker room.
“If I had to make up a job title I would say ‘A little bit of this and a little bit of that’,” Hamilton says. “Equipment transfer and laundry are my two biggest things.”
Equipment transfer entails loading equipment on the truck, shuttling the truck to the airport, clearing security, loading the plane, unloading the plane, shuttling back to GM Place, setting up the locker rooms and then doing it all over again, sometimes within a single 24-hour period.
“I always have trainers with me so it’s not like I do it by myself. I’ll have the visiting trainers with me or our trainers with us. But that’s the bulk of my job. And then I do all the laundry,” Hamilton says.
Think you’ve seen tough stains? Hamilton takes on socks, jerseys and gear worn at least 82 times in a given season. Not to mention pre-season, training camp, practices and post-season. The B.C. native tackles tough laundry day in and day out in huge quantities, laundering upwards of 50 jerseys in a single day.
On top of the sheer volume, the jerseys have a specific cleaning cycle that definitely doesn’t include the drier. For the most part.
“I dried a jersey once. It got it in with the socks and I threw it in the drier. I came back to fold the socks and there it was in the drier. I thought I was going to get in trouble. So I just hung it with the other jerseys, kind of made it blend in and no one ever said anything,” Hamilton says, not disclosing the owner of the jersey. “There are 29 teams who can try to figure out who it was. I was a little nervous but it seemed to work out okay.”
In his six years with the Canucks that one blunder is the only laundry hiccup. The new husband and newer father does more than just spin laundry though.
“I also am responsible for kind of the upkeep. So making sure that all the toiletries are in the bathrooms, making sure the fridge is always full, making sure that the coffee machine is always full,” Hamilton explains.
Keeping up on the inventory can be a full-time task in and of itself. Athletes need hydration to stay on top of their game and for Hamilton, this translates into 14,000 water bottles and countless Gatorade and Coke products every season. Thankfully GM Place has a great recycling program.
Aside from keeping the team clean and hydrated, Hamilton also helps maintain the players’ benches.
“I set up the bench for practices—whether it’s the home team practicing or visiting team practicing—so the water bottles and all that,” Hamilton says.
All that interaction with both the visiting and home team has helped Hamilton develop lasting friendships with trainers and staff from around the League, most notably in his own backyard.
“You don’t meet people like we’ve met in our lives, every day. And when I say people, it’s a wide group—the guys who load the plane. They work really hard because they know the urgency - that this team’s got to play tomorrow night.
The conversions crew - when there’s a concert they know that the equipment guys want to get the gear hung and they clean out these rooms right away. The cleaning crews here. So it goes beyond how well the other trainers, coaches and the players treat us. It’s a big family that helps out. We all have a common goal,” Hamilton says.
When it comes down to it, as admittedly cliché as it is, Hamilton says that the common goal is to do every job to the best of his ability so that the guys on the ice can do their job to the best of their ability.
So, while 9-5 doesn’t exist in the repertoire, every late night trip to the airport and heavy load of equipment carries Hamilton and the Canucks one step closer to that goal - clean socks in tow.
One on one with trainers
6 - Seasons with the Canucks for Brian “Red” Hamilton
14,000 - Water bottles ordered for home and visiting team
13 - Years Red worked with BC Lions prior to joining the Canucks
2 - Ladies in his life, wife Corine and new addition, Ashley.
37 - Years experience with Canucks for Training Staff (Pat O’Neill, Jamie Hendricks and Brian Hamilton)
4 - Years in current role as Equipment Assistant Trainer for Red
16 - Hours Red works on most game-days
1 - Number of jerseys shrunk