After serving as an athletic trainer for 16 years in the National Hockey League, Stan Wong didn’t know if his days working around hockey were over.
Wong’s three-year contract with the Florida Panthers had expired and wasn’t renewed by the new general manager, and he was content with closing out his career. A short time passed and Wong received a call from USA Hockey. Wong was asked if he’d like to work the Deutschland Cup in November 2002. He jumped at the opportunity. The next month, Wong was also a Team USA trainer for the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Now 16 years later, Wong is still a volunteer trainer for USA Hockey.
“Through USA Hockey I’ve been very, very fortunate,” Wong said.
The 59-year-old is retired and living the life in Boca Raton, Florida. Wong is catching rays in the summer months and on the bench for the biggest USA Hockey events every winter. He wouldn’t want it any other way.
Wong worked his 10th Deutschland Cup in Augsburg, Germany — he’s been alternating years recently and last worked the tournament in 2015 — this past weekend.
“I get to do all these events and I get to travel all around Europe and I get to work with really, really good people and really nice people,” Wong said.
Wong works three to four tournaments for USA Hockey every year. Along with the Deutschland Cup and World Juniors, he’s the athletic trainer for the IIHF Men’s World Championship. And, since 2018 is an Olympic year, Wong will be serving his country for his fourth Olympic Winter Games. His first was in 2006.
Wong, who has worked the last 16 IIHF World Junior Championships, calls that his favorite event. Team USA has won four gold medals in the event’s 41-year history, and Wong has been the trainer for all of those squads (2004, 2010, 2013 and 2017).
He’s also been the trainer for the World Junior Summer Showcase held every year at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan.
“It’s just a few things that keep you dabbling in hockey,” he said.
Wong has been involved with athletic training in ever since he graduated from Northeastern University. His first job out of college was with the Philadelphia Eagles for three years, working Super Bowl XV. He then moved to the United States Football League and worked for the Boston Breakers from 1983-85 until the league folded.
“I really loved football,” Wong said. “I thought I would stay in football.”
Hockey was the next step in Wong’s career. He signed on as the Washington Capitals’ trainer from 1986-99. He got a chance to work the Stanley Cup in the 1997-98 season and two All-Star Games (1991 and 1999). Wong moved to the Panthers in 1999 before leaving the NHL in 2002.
“I was retiring and I was not going to work in hockey anymore,” Wong said.
Wong may have thought his time with hockey was over, but USA Hockey thought otherwise.
“I really can’t thank [USA Hockey] enough,” Wong said. “It lets me stay involved with hockey and stay involved with people. It makes the transition from leaving the NHL a lot easier.”
Wong, who calls himself a “hands-on” trainer who isn’t too keen on paperwork and the office part of a job, does a lot of preparation and due diligence before traveling for a tournament. For World Juniors, for instance, Wong knows a lot of the athletes who will compete for Team USA, but he will call the player’s respective team and conduct a preliminary questioning.
“‘We’re interested in bringing in John Jones over to the World Juniors for Team USA’ — and I’m talking to their athletic trainer, whether it’s an OHL team or a college or university,” Wong said. “I’ll ask them if he has any ongoing injuries. ‘Has he had any injuries this year that he’s missed time with?’ And he’ll tell me that. ‘Does he have any allergies?’ He’ll tell me that. ‘Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about him?’ He’ll give me a little insight on the player.”
Wong will jot down notes to capture a full history of each player. It’s the little details that can sometimes be the most important for a trainer to know.
“Once we get there, we really want to make sure that that player has nothing to worry about except for playing hockey,” Wong said. “So, if he’s got an ongoing injury and we’re either treating it and taping it and rehabbing it with some exercises that we’re doing or whatever we need to do, and that will come from his history.”
Wong is a people person who never has a problem with keeping the lines of communication open with management and coaches. He’ll keep them apprised of any injuries or situations that arise to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Wong feels fortunate to have such a great gig in a game that he loves.
“I feel more blessed to have them than they are to have me,” Wong said. “They’ve been awesome to me. I get to travel to Europe a lot. I’ve been to Europe, I have no idea, 30 times, maybe. I couldn’t do it on my own dime, to be honest with you, and I wouldn’t want to travel on my own dime. But when you’re with hockey, you get to be with great people.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.