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Labor, Labor, and More Labor of Love

By Greg Bates - Special to USA Hockey, 11/09/16, 3:15PM MST

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Josh Brainerd has done it all in 20-plus years of work around the rink

As part of USA Hockey's 80th Anniversary, we will shine a spotlight on the countless volunteers and instructors who spend time "Behind the Glass" to help our sport grow.

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When it’s wintertime and hockey season is in full swing, Josh Brainerd is spending a huge chunk of each day at the rink.

As the general manager of the Family Ice Center in Falmouth, Maine, Brainerd’s work never stops from about November to March.

How many hours does he log per week? That’s a question that stings.

“Oh my gosh, I don’t even want to count,” said Brainerd, laughing. “Probably in the slow season, 50 or 60, and the winter time, don’t even bother counting.”

Forget about spending weekends relaxing at home on the couch.

“Forget about life, period,” Brainerd joked.

Brainerd doesn’t get a lot of recognition for all the work he does at the Family Ice Center, but he’s OK with that. It’s a demanding job, and most people have no idea how much goes into keeping a rink running smoothly.

“That job follows me everywhere I go — I can’t get away from it,” Brainerd said. “I’m just lucky that I love it, because if I didn’t I’d go crazy. People would be shocked how much that job follows you, and I’m sure that’s true with many arenas wherever you are doing this type of work.

“I always tell people, ‘Anytime you’re working with people’s fun, they think your job is all fun.’ What I mean by that is like, if you’re running a hockey rink or golf course or ski resort, well, that’s where everyone goes to have fun so they just automatically think your job’s fun. They just don’t realize in order for our facility to be one of the best, in order for the ice conditions to be good and the building to be very clean and the staff to be well trained and all those sorts of things, I’m married to it.”

That five-month stretch during the winter where Brainerd’s schedule is turned upside down is a difficult time. However, it’s something he’s certainly grown accustomed to. The 36-year-old has been working in the rink business for 21 years.

Brainerd was playing hockey for Greely High School in Cumberland, Maine, when he landed his first job at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. As a 15-year-old, he worked operations there for about four years.

In 1999 when Family Ice Center was built, Brainerd was brought on board. He took on jobs at the Travis Roy Ice Arena at North Yarmouth Academy for seven years and Portland Ice Center for one year while still working at Family Ice Center. Brainerd would primarily run operations around the rink and help with everyday maintenance.

“I’ve sort of been all over the place with arenas up here,” Brainerd said.

When Brainerd started working at a rink as a teenager, he never thought he would make a career out of it. But things changed along the journey.

“It’s just that every time that I was just about to get out of it and move on with my life and do something else, a better opportunity within the business came my way, probably just because I was gaining so much experience,” Brainerd said.

Brainerd kept climbing the ladder at the Family Ice Center and four years ago was promoted to general manager. When Brainerd was working operations at the rink, he was a jack-of-all-trades. He performed Zamboni maintenance, ice maintenance, ice installation and removal — anything that involved working on equipment.

Now that his primary job isn’t operations, Brainerd is having a hard time just working the managerial side of things.

“I did that job for so long, I just can’t let go of it completely,” Brainerd said. “I’ve got a great staff with me, but it’s like so natural for me, I just can’t let go of that piece.”

Brainerd noted the best part about his job is the relationships he’s been able to build throughout all his years at the rink.

“I love the fact that I’m doing business with people that I grew up playing hockey with or some cases that coached me while I was in hockey and are still involved,” Brainerd said. “I love the community feeling that comes with the hockey family.”

After thinking as a teenager working at the rink might not be his career choice, Brainerd is extremely happy he’s still doing what he loves.

“It’s all I’ve ever known; it’s all I’ve ever done,” Brainerd said. “I really enjoy it. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to grow within this business.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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