New ASU hockey equipment manager's journey, experiences shape positive attitude toward job

Joey Guilmet comes to Tempe with more than 20 years of experience.

Exhausted from a road trip and that day's work, Joey Guilmet decided to take a pregame nap on a training table in Charlotte, North Carolina, last November. 

At the time, he was the head equipment manager with the Norfolk Admirals, the Anaheim Ducks' AAA team that was in town to play the Charlotte Checkers that day. 

Little did he know that a job he wanted would open up during his snooze.

When he woke up, his phone was blowing up with people he knew from the business — friends and contacts he had made throughout his more than 20 years of professional experience — telling him that ASU needed an equipment manager. The program had just announced the move to Division I and it needed a high-level person with experience to fill the position. 

That night, Guilmet sent ASU head coach Greg Powers an email asking about the team's intended timeline for hiring someone, which was where their relationship started. 

Joey Guilmet's resume: 

-12 years as the equipment manager for the Atlanta Thrashers

-Worked as an equipment staffer for Team USA in the 2006 Olympic Games

-Worked with Team USA in the World Championships in 2001, 2008 and 2009

-Worked the 1992 MLB All-Star Game 

-Worked the 2007 NHL All-Star Game

-Five years working as an equipment manager in the American Hockey League (AHL)

Laying the groundwork 

His journey in the business began as a young teenager when he was given a chance by Chuck Hart, who was the head equipment manager for the San Diego Gulls at the time. Guilmet, a San Diego native, then received similar opportunities from Tony Petricca of the San Diego Padres and Bob Doty of the Arizona Diamondbacks, both of whom work with equipment managing. 

Guilmet said those three were his mentors and he believes he is almost a hybrid of all three. While Doty was serious and never spoke out of character, Petricca and Hart were fun, jovial and liked to keep the locker room loose. 

He actually had dinner with Doty about a month and a half ago, and took time to reflect and catch up. 

"I told him that he didn't realize the impact he had on a kid who was 17 or 18 years old just watching these older guys do their job," he said. "Their professionalism, their accountability, what they brought every day. ... It was a really important thing for a kid at a young age to do what they did. They never accepted complacency."

He started with the Padres when he was 16 years old and although he was grateful for the opportunity, he was never really in awe of the athletes. It was a product of the 1990s — players were more approachable than in today's world. 

Time in the NHL 

Guilmet had his biggest gig when he became the equipment manager for the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. He said the biggest difference between the NHL job and college or minor-league jobs is that the players demand more, like hotel or dinner reservations in addition to the standard duties of customizing their equipment.

It hasn't always been that way, though. 

"I've seen the job really morph into more than an equipment manager," Guilmet said. "You're doing more personal things and taking care of them in certain ways."

Guilmet said he noticed that transition come about in the early 2000s. In 1999, it was still a league dominated by that older player, but in two or three years, things changed. 

"Players were getting paid more, they were expecting more," he said. "(Equipment managers) were kind of there for them 24/7 for whatever they need. ... Now, that's what it is, it's expected."

Nowadays, so much notoriety surrounds athletes and they are becoming some of the world's biggest celebrities. In a sense, he said that's why Atlanta was so great — he was able to see the Thrashers' players exhale when leaving big hockey markets like Canada and New York, simply because there was no worry of being followed or bombarded. 

"Guys could do family things and no one bothered them," Guilmet said. 

And although Guilmet's job was demanding, especially after it morphed, he said it was rewarding. He said the greatest aspect was watching boys become men. 

Perhaps two of the best relationships he had were with Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta's first overall pick in the 2001 NHL entry draft, and Dany Heatley, the Thrashers' second overall pick the year before. 

Specifically, Guilmet said watching Kovalchuk go from being an 18-year-old kid to a man, father and husband was especially rewarding. He also recalled an emotional interaction with "Kovy" he had when the Russian was traded in 2010 after he and Atlanta weren't able to come to an agreement in the last year of his contract. 

"He was in tears and I was in tears, and I said, 'Watching you become a man has been the best thing,'" he said. "He was a boy when he came to us."

He said the pinnacle of his time working for the Thrashers was when he worked the 2006 Olympic Games for Team USA. Guilmet was one of 30 equipment managers chosen to work at Torino 2006. 

"Just being able to go away and live in the village for three and a half weeks and see the athletes. ... Interacting with them was the best part," Guilmet said. 

He was truly living the dream.

But in 2011, the team was sold to different investors after previous years of financial struggles caught up to its original owners.

"I always say that I lost my dream job in Atlanta," Guilmet said. "I felt like it was my dream job and I promised myself that I would never accept complacency and I would always challenge myself to be better." 

New beginnings at ASU 

Before taking the job at ASU, Guilmet spent some time in the American Hockey League. He said he could have stayed in the AHL for another year or two because he was promised another job in the NHL, but it wasn't about that anymore. 

It wasn't about chasing something that could compare to the dream job he had for 12 years in Atlanta. 

This was a fresh start. 

"Now, it's about my family, it's about growth, it's about wanting to challenge myself," he said. "This is a special opportunity." 

Along with their young son, Oliver, Guilmet and his wife, Michelle, just welcomed newborn-daughter June on Oct. 5. 

He said the extra importance he placed on family comes from his upbringing and experiences as a child growing up in a home with a single mother. 

"From my upbringing, I take being a father and a husband more seriously than anything," he said. 

Just as it was in the NHL, he said his job at ASU is more than just dealing with the equipment. He strives to be a mentor to the team's players, who are actively balancing school and hockey. 

He said they have been receptive, which was expected because he has a respect factor gained from his previous experience. But maybe it also has to do with the way he approaches the job every day. 

"I've always been a firm believer that there's two things no one can take away from me everyday, and that's my attitude and my work ethic," Guilmet said. "I think my attitude coming into this job every day hopefully goes into these players." 

Guilmet also said his mentality relates to the players, too, because no one can take away their practice or off-ice conditioning habits, for example. He compared the young student-athletes to savings accounts. 

"You have to deposit into them before you withdraw," he said. "I'm building that equity within them and at some point, they'll see what I stand for. I tell them my door is wide open 24/7."

On a normal day, Guilmet arrives at Oceanside Ice Arena at about 7:30 a.m. and leaves around 6 p.m., after making sure the table is set for the next day's events. 

Powers, who was searching for a high-level equipment manager for the new DI program, said Guilmet is simply as good as it gets at any level. 

He goes beyond being just an equipment manager, which is a testament to his well-roundedness and character. 

"His professionalism, creativity and ability to make our players feel like he genuinely cares speaks volumes to his impact," Powers said. "Joey is a pleasure to be around at the rink every day and his exposure to the best players in the world throughout his career only helps our young players at ASU."

Junior forward Michael Cummings, who played on the ACHA team before the jump, said the difference between this year and last is night and day. 

"He treats us like professionals," Cummings said. "Everything is laid out for us every day when we come in. Jerseys are washed, socks are washed and he has all of the gear we are going to wear for the weekend. He doesn't let us take our bags to the airport. He just gets everything done for us and it makes life so much easier."

Guilmet also had a role in the team's new jerseys, according to Sun Devil hockey spokesman Justin Emerson. The captains patches — a big "C" inside a vector of the state of Arizona — and the sublimated pitchforks inside the numbers on the back of the jersey were all his ideas. 

Sun Devil hockey's transition to the NCAA has undoubtedly, but expectedly brought various challenges and bumps in the road, but it if there is one point of reliability, it's with the man behind the scenes. 

Related Links:

Forward Owen Sillinger commits to ASU hockey, will arrive in 2017

ASU throttles Arizona Hockey 8-1 in First game of NCAA Campaign


Reach the reporter at Justin.Toscano@asu.edu or follow @justintoscano3 on Twitter

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