Jon Laughner serves an integral role for ASU men's hockey

Laughner's role as the equipment manager with ASU men's hockey helps the team both on and off the ice

Early mornings and long nights at the rink are just some of the things that you get accustomed to as a hockey equipment manager. 

Sorting pads, doing laundry and sharpening skates are all just part of the job description, and all of that work is driven into making sure that players on the ice look and feel their best when the puck drops.

For the ASU men’s hockey team, the man who holds this vital position is Jon Laughner. And while most Sun Devil hockey players are out of the Valley for the offseason in the middle of the summer, Laughner has been hard at work within the frigid confines of Oceanside Arena.

“In the offseason, we still come in early. I come in at probably seven o’clock in the morning,” Laughner said. “There’s always something to be done in the locker room. There is something that needs to be fixed or there is something that we can improve upon.”

Laughner has had a variety of tasks at hand this offseason, including painting the team’s locker room, working with new equipment, helping out professional players who skate at Oceanside twice a week and creating more space for storage and equipment in an arena where space is limited.

But aside from his work at ASU, one may ask, how does someone become a head equipment manager?

That journey for Laughner began in his home state of Indiana, where he virtually grew up in an ice rink.

Laughner’s mom was a professional figure skater who taught local lessons at the Carmel Ice Skadium. Laughner’s parents met at the rink, and his siblings all worked at the local site at one point in their lives.

Laughner played club hockey at Indiana University, and he played for the same youth hockey program as ASU head coach Greg Powers in Indianapolis.

Powers and Laughner never played on the same team, with Laughner saying that Powers was older than he was.

Since Laughner was hired last summer, the two Indiana natives now have a strong bond to say the least.

“We have a really good relationship, and having a good equipment manager is so important,” Powers said. “He cherishes the relationships that he has with all of our players and staff, and he is just a pleasure to be around. Equipment managers have a very unique ability to help shape the culture of a locker room because they are the ones that are in it more than coaches. They are around the players … having a guy that can be a positive influence on our young players like Jon, is instrumental to our success.”

Playing club hockey at IU with no equipment managers, Laughner noted that he used to sharpen his team’s skates in between periods.

The Indiana grad went on to work for five years as a head equipment manager in the ECHL, which is a mid-level professional league that serves as a pit stop for young players on their aspiring and hopeful journeys to the NHL

Laughner worked for the South Carolina Stingrays and the Utah Grizzlies, where he worked with players who eventually made it to the National Hockey League, such as current San Jose Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell, and former Pittsburgh Penguin and Edmonton Oiler enforcer Steve MacIntyre.

As for the players he has dealt with at ASU thus far, Laughner said he was fortunate for dealing with such a low-maintenance hockey team.

With athletes who can sometimes have their own superstitious habits and rituals when it comes to equipment, Laughner said working with Sun Devil hockey has been nothing too taxing.

That doesn’t mean that Laughner didn’t have his stories, though, noting that ASU sophomore goal scorer Johnny Walker must have the same elbow pads that he has owned since he was 12 years old, and Laughner can’t persuade him to get new ones.

Also, as many hockey fans and players know, goaltenders are wired a little differently when it comes to routines, repetitions and equipment. They can be nitpicky.

However, for ASU netminder Joey Daccord, Laughner said that the Sun Devil puck stopper was nothing “too bad,” especially for a goalie.

Above all, there is one thing that comes across if you ever get the pleasure of meeting Laughner: He loves, and is humbled, by his job. And while it is not your typical 9-5 workspace, the early mornings and long nights at Oceanside are something that he cherishes.

“I got the greatest job in the world,” Laughner said. “I wake up at 5 o’clock every morning excited to get here and get going. It’s crazy. Those days where you wake up at 5 a.m. and you don’t leave here until 1 a.m., but the day flies by because I am getting to do something that I love … I am just so fortunate to be a part of this program … I can’t explain it enough, how happy I am to be here and be a part of this.”

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