There are several reasons to fire an NHL trainer or conditioning coach:
- Failing to keep the team, you know, well-conditioned
- Instead of complete player medical files, inappropriate content found on laptop
- Hosting Mike Sillinger’s hip rehab sessions at BK Sweeney’s
- Mishandling an in-grown toenail into a half-season stint on the IR
You have not failed as an NHL trainer when Kyle Okposo sprains his wrist. Your job performance does not fall under scrutiny when Frans Nielsen suffers multiple leg fractures when Mike Mottau tries to take his head off. You do not lose your job when Nate Thompson fractures his ankle in a game in Columbus. You cannot be blamed when Radek Martinek seems to fail to understand it’s okay to not absorb every hit coming your way.
Just like it wasn’t the doctor’s fault when I severely sprained my ankle playing one-on-one against Sean Byrnes on the courts outside Trinity Lutheran in Hicksville 25 years ago.
Sillinger has repeatedly praised trainers Garrett Timms and Nates Goto and strength and conditioning coach Chris Schwarz for their patience, work ethic and know-how in putting him back together again. So have Rick DiPietro and Mike Comrie. You know how we’d know if the trainers sucked? The players would never volunteer the information. The well-traveled Silli has had more trainers than Evander Holyfield.
Trainers, who work harder than anyone in this league – you think Timms had Sunday off? – have been fired plenty of times. Some, no doubt, for fair reasons. But as Ted used to say, hockey is not just a contact sport, it’s a collision sport.
If the Islanders fired their ball and butt-busting trainers because their players suffered sprained wrists, broken legs or even busted hips, it would be as outrageous as any blown trade. Which is why it is not happening.
* Disclosure: Yes, I worked with Timms, Gato and Schwarz for a few years. Decent guys, but they never did jack for me. I’d ask Timms to help me describe an injury, and he was as forthcoming as “House.” Getting Schwarz to give up a Powerade was like asking for a kidney.