GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the Grand Rapids Griffins locker room, players are always coming and going. Equipment manager Brad Thompson stays.
“I have friends for three or four years and then they go away,” he said.
Thompson, better known in the locker room as Dogg, has been a mainstay with the team and takes a small credit in getting guys to the NHL.
“Just that little part of me got them there,” he said. “I always say, ‘I can’t make you a better hockey player, but I can make you a better person.’ When they get to make it to Detroit, I’m like, ‘Yes!'”
That’s why he considers himself as more than just an equipment manager.
“I’m the team mom. Sometimes I have to straighten somebody out every once in a while,” Thompson said.
He started working with the Griffins 25 years ago and never looked back.
“I get to do it in front of the community that I grew up in. That’s the big thing for me,” he said. “I had a couple chances to leave, to interview and all that stuff, and I was more than happy just to stay here.”
Throughout his career, Thompson has sharpened plenty of skates and replaced more sticks than he can count. He has even celebrated two Calder Cup championships with the team.
“To actually bring it home in 2017 in front of our hometown crowd was amazing,” Thompson said. “(I’m getting) emotional. I like my guys, so…”
His role on the ice might be bigger than he ever realized.
“He has to do a lot of things that go unnoticed and behind the scenes, even to the guys,” Griffins defenseman Brian Lashoff said. “You’re playing hockey all season and you’re going about you’re routines and stuff and there’s a lot of things he does behind the scenes stuff that make your life go smooth that you don’t even realize it.”
But someone realized. Among hundreds of athletic trainers and equipment managers across the world, Thompson was picked this year as one of the best in the game. He was recognized with the Career Achievement Award from the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society and the Society of Professional Hockey Equipment.
“I don’t do the job for the recognition. As you know, we’re behind the curtain,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, it’s nice to be rewarded.”
Thirteen-year pro Lashoff said he know doesn’t know where he would be without Dogg.
“When I came in, when I was 18, he kind of took me under his wing and kind showed me the ropes, along with a lot of guys in this room,” Lashoff said. “But I think it means a lot to the guys because they can come in and they know they have a guy in that room that they can go and talk, really about anything — we can talk about hockey or life or family and stuff, and he’s just there for you at all times.”
While the day-to-day for Dogg might be organizing gear and stitching jerseys, that’s not what makes him everyone’s best friend.
“He’s a huge part of my life, not just in my hockey career, but he’s helped me grow as a person as well,” Lashoff said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re doing the laundry, if you’re the captain, you’re the coach, everybody is in this together to excel and make the city proud,” Thompson said.