Stan Wong understands and cherishes his role as an athletic trainer with USA Hockey.
The athletes and executives who work with Wong also enjoy celebrating him, too.
For excellence in international hockey competition, Wong, of Boca Raton, Florida, has been named the recipient of the 2020 Bob Johnson Award from USA Hockey. The award was created in 1992 and named for legendary coach Bob Johnson, who was an executive director of USA Hockey from 1987-90 and a Stanley Cup-winning coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991.
“I’m honored and humbled to win the Bob Johnson Award,” Wong said. “I looked at the list of past winners and I’m just in awe of the names that are on the list. There are a lot of people that I know, or I know of, and teams that I hold in the highest regard, and to be part of that list is just an unbelievable feeling.”
John Vanbiesbrouck, the current assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, was the one to give Wong the good news.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to deliver that news,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “He’s very deserving and he has great humility in what he does. It’s a hard job, but he serves the athletes so well. He has a great way with the players and they love him.”
Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said he’s always excited to catch up with Wong when he represents Team USA during international tournament play.
“I think that’s what draws you to those tournaments every time,” Foligno said. “It’s a big commitment for guys, especially being away from their families, but then you get a chance to see [Wong] again, and he makes it so fun. You get to have a great time with him, you laugh with him and talk about life with him.”
Wong has been a cornerstone of USA Hockey’s international program as an athletic trainer for nearly 20 years, serving 47 teams during that span. Most recently, Wong served on the staff of the 2020 U.S. National Junior Team, marking his 18th straight appearance as the team’s athletic trainer.
“When I have a chance to play in these tournaments, one of the first people I think of is him … that I’ll get to see him again and spend time with him,” Foligno said. “We talk a lot about our families and just life. It’s neat because there’s so much to bring to the table since we haven’t seen each other in so long. There are so many memories, but the friendship that I was able to create so quickly with him is something I’ll always cherish.”
Wong has served as an athletic trainer for the last four U.S. Men’s Olympic Teams (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018), and the most recent 13 IIHF Men’s World Championships. Wong, a Northeastern University graduate, also worked three years in the National Football League and more than 15 in the National Hockey League with the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers.
“He’s been in the game for such a long time that he doesn’t really have to do this, but you can tell that he wants to do this,” Foligno said. “He’s so selfless, he just wants to be part of the stories, the celebrations and seeing guys reach their goals. There’s a reason why we all speak so highly of him.”
New Jersey Devils star Jack Hughes won the Bob Johnson Award last season. Previous winners include Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Patrick Kane, Hilary Knight, Auston Matthews, John Gibson, Ryan Miller and Phil Kessel among others. The list also includes eight teams, as a whole, since 2009, several of which Wong served.
Now, Wong gets to join those players and teams he served on that list.
“Through this great game of hockey, I’ve met so many people,” Wong said. “The one thing I recognize and seek first in people … and what I admire is the humility I see in those players. It just makes me so proud just to even know them and to work with them. In hockey, the people are so humble and modest. It’s something I admire and probably something that attracted me to the game a lot more.”
Wong was inducted into the Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers Hall of Fame in 2015. He fell in love with the mentality, the attitude and respect he witnessed amongst players and staff when he started working hockey in the 1980s. Wong values teamwork with other athletic trainers and equipment managers, as the group does its part behind the scenes to make sure players are ready to perform at the highest level.
“You take the hockey out of it and he just cares about people,” Foligno said. “Probably, the most endearing thing about him is just how humble he is. He doesn’t take any credit, he’s just proud of the players. He doesn’t care about your stats or status, he wants to know if you’re a good person and if you treat people with respect. Everyone that comes in contact with him sees a way that a human should treat people.”
Wong has watched players grow up, too.
Minnesota Wild star defenseman Ryan Suter won the Bob Johnson Award in 2003. He also worked with Wong on the U.S. National Junior Team in 2004, and again last season on the U.S. Men’s National Team, a span of 15 years between the events.
“[Suter] was 18 or 19 years old then and now he’s married with kids and has had an unbelievable career in the NHL,” Wong said. “The friendship is still there from so long ago. I can honestly say that I’ve been blessed and I’m very honored.”
Foligno recalled the pride Wong shares for the athletes he works with.
“You want to do [Wong] proud because he cares so much about you,” Foligno said. “He’ll tell me stories about guys that he’s seen, how well they’re doing and if they have a kid or not. He never wants to talk about himself and I think that’s really endearing, but he’ll also open up. He’s not afraid to show you his human side and I think guys appreciate that. He has a great way of being humble, but also being human.”
Wong owns nine medals as a trainer with the U.S. National Junior Team, including four gold medals (2004, 2010, 2013, 2017), one silver (2019) and four bronze medals (2007, 2011, 2016, 2018. Wong has also been part of training staffs that have helped Team USA to an Olympic silver medal in 2010 and Men’s World Championship bronze medals in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
All four World Junior Championship gold medals are most special to Wong, eternal moments forever etched into his memory as a permanent photograph. Ask Wong about a particular team, or a gold medal moment, and he’ll immediately rattle off the year, several memorable players on the team and moments of adversity those teams were forced to overcome en route to a gold medal.
Wong vividly recalled the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship, in which the Americans lost a pair of one-goal games in preliminary-round games. The U.S. rallied to win the gold medal, as current Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson sealed the championship with an overtime game-winner.
“To this day, I love seeing the guys on that team,” Wong said. “We talk about it all the time.”
One moment stands out above the rest though for Wong. The Americans went a perfect 7-0 to win the country’s fourth gold medal during the 2017 World Junior Championship.
“It was probably the most dramatic and exciting event I’ve ever been around in my life,” Wong said. “That’s my moment, right there … that 2017 team at the World Juniors in Montreal is probably the most fun moment for me, personally and the most gratifying.”
Wong called the Bob Johnson Award “totally unexpected.”
“I’m just so thankful and grateful for USA Hockey,” Wong said. “To get any award from USA Hockey is such a great honor, never mind an award named after ‘Badger’ Bob Johnson. It makes it so special.”
Foligno is proud to see his friend honored by USA Hockey.
“I think no one’s more deserving,” Foligno said. “If you look at what the award means, I think it embodies everything Stan stands for. I’m thrilled that he’s getting noticed for all of the work he does behind the scenes. He wants everyone else to have their moment in the sun, so to speak. It’s time that he gets his moment.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.