blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: Pete Demers Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pete Demers Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Matching the iron man mark of baseball's Cal Ripken, Jr. to the game, trainer Pete Demers spent 2,632 consecutive regular season games stitching, stretching, and strengthening Los Angeles royalty. We spoke with Pete at Hockey Fest '09 about his decades behind the bench tending to everyone from Gretzky to Goring. These are his stories.

Q: What’s the most common injury in the NHL?
A: We have a lot of groin strains at training camp just from a lack of flexibility. And you have a lot of sore backs in hockey too with the guys bent over skating. We do a lot of core strengthening exercises with the big ball these days. Backs and groins are key. Also, with today’s skates fitting so tight we get a lot of what we call lace bite where you bend your foot. It’s tendinitis. We treat that by making sure the skates are dry and using gel pads underneath the tongue. That’s a real common injury in hockey. Then we get a lot of wrists. We tape a lot of wrists. But ice is the key. We use so much ice. I still get calls all the time for injuries and I just tell them to ice it down.

Q: How has technology changed your job over the years?
A: Well the game has changed so much. We have an extensive injury analysis system and we’ve just added a lot of staff. When I started out the trainer was the trainer, equipment manager, strength coach, massage therapist, and physical therapist. Now we have all those people in place rather than just one or two guys. So it’s much more specialized.

Q: Describe the injury analysis system?
A: There's a software program that all the teams use. All of the data is sent into the league and they look at the time of the game where the hit takes place assessing the equipment issues and ice conditions. That’s all put in a pot and stirred up and they get information from that.

Q: Who were the best conditioned players in your locker room?
A: Most of the players had unbelievable motivation. It's improved a lot now but when we used to do testing at the beginning of training camp the older guys on the down curve of conditioning would consistently score the best results. You could block out the names and tell who the veterans were just by looking at the test results. The rookies came in and didn't know how to train. They didn’t know what it takes. But they’re the guys at 18 to 20 years old that should be in the top of the curve as far as their fitness goes. You would think the guy that’s 34 would be winding down but he's so motivated to stay. So that's what we teach the rookies. And that’s why the Kings bring their prospects in and show them what family is all about.

Q: What’s the worst injury you ever had to address on the ice?
A: Well we had a real serious head injury a few years ago. But I think the most common injuries we have are cuts. Butch Goring had a real bad cut. He got a cut on his thigh. It went through his pants, socks, and shinpads, and he required like a hundred stitches. And then about six months later in the following season he got a skate in his eye. Butch reached around Denis Potvin and Potvin’s skate came up and hit him in the eye. We stayed in the hospital for two days with Butch monitoring his eye which they were able to save. Injuries like that are pretty scary.

Q: How would you describe Gretzky’s health on the Kings?
A: His focus was playing like everybody says. He really didn’t take his injuries very seriously. They gave him space to play out of respect but he was banged up just like everybody else. When he hurt his back we knew he needed to do some extensive work on it. So he said, OK that’s it, we’re going to do this. So he came in for twice a day treatments just like everyone else. Go home, drive back. But he was a pretty tough guy and didn’t get hurt a lot.

Q: What was Wayne like on a personal level?
A: He was a great guy. I always say the glory wore off at three o’clock in the morning when I was slinging hockey bags in Montreal in a snowstorm. I had already put 20 years in the game when Gretzky came to the Kings. We were at training camp and he came in with a little slice on his finger and I put a band-aid on it and he walked out. And I said hey that's Wayne Gretzky, I just put a band-aid on his finger. Like who can say that. From the Brad Nortons to the Wayne Gretzky, they’re all great guys. The camaraderie and sense of family we have in our game is second to none. There's no sport like it. We know this. Everyone tells us this. Hockey players are regular guys. They're fun to be around. That’s what I miss the most. The sense of family around the guys.

Q: What are you doing now?
A: I’m retired now. I’m fishing and traveling. We have a house in Nova Scotia where I’m going to go for September and October. It’s fun.

Many thanks to Pete for speaking with us. Enjoy the retirement.