Uniforms, a dog and attention to detail: How one manager equips ASU hockey

As the coordinator of equipment operations, Jon Laughner brings a supportive presence into the Sun Devils locker room

It's not uncommon to see a friendly, energetic Labrador retriever by the name of Al wandering about in Oceanside Ice Arena.

Al, in all his glory, belongs to ASU men's hockey equipment manager Jon Laughner.

Laughner's office just so happens to be Al's favorite hangout spot at Oceanside.

“We joke that he’s the emotional support animal here,” Laughner said. “You can’t be around Al and be in a bad mood for the most part. The guys love having him around. It’s pretty cool that he gets to hang out with me.”

It is common knowledge among the team that Al is good buddies with Sun Devil redshirt sophomore forward Austin Lemieux; if he's not on the ice, he's likely with Al.

“It’s just great to have (Al) here,” Lemieux said. “He lightens the mood … having a dog run around the room is fun to see every day.” 

But Al's presence within the program also implies Laughner's, something that the team would not function without.

Laughner, who came to ASU in 2017 after working in the ECHL, has taken full advantage of his opportunities.

“I thought (ASU) would be the greatest place in the world to work,” Laughner said. “(I’m) so fortunate to be a part of a program that’s literally making history and growing the game of hockey.”

His work, while strenuous and demanding, is unnoticed by the common fan.

“Any time we are the home team, we take care of the visiting team as well,” Laughner said. “We do all of their laundry, so (on gamedays) we’re generally here by six-ish … (and we) roll out of here between midnight and maybe 1 a.m. if it’s a late night, and then we do it all again the next day.”

Since he joined the Sun Devil hockey family, Laughner has cemented himself as the jack of all trades for the team on all things gear-related. 

“He does a lot of work,” sophomore forward Demetrios Koumontzis said. “We are so blessed to have him. He gets us everything we need and beyond.”

Koumontzis has a special relationship with Laughner. The road trip to Minnesota last season best exemplified that.

“(Koumontzis) got off a warm-up in Minnesota—he’s from Minnesota—so when we play there he’s a little on edge,” Laughner said. “He got off a warm-up telling me his stick was broken ... I tried to explain to him that his stick wasn’t broken. He swore it was broken.”

Koumontzis recalls the event with Laughner.

“I was a little nervous playing back in Minnesota,” Koumontzis said. “The puck just seemed a little wobbly to me when I was shooting in warm-ups so I got off and was like, ‘Jon I need a new stick, (it's) broken’ … when we got back to Arizona I was checking the stick out, and it wasn’t broken.”

Other times, Koumontzis prefers his skates to be in top condition, so he brings them to Laughner to get them sharpened.

But they're not sharpened that often.

“He loves to get his skates sharpened every single time he skates,” Laughner said with a grin. “He thinks he gets them sharpened every single time he skates. It’s not that often.”

In the end, work comes first, and Laughner spends an inordinate amount of time to make sure the team is in the best position possible to win every weekend.

“I’ve never been on a team that had a legit equipment manager, but I know the importance of them and things don’t happen without them,” Koumontzis said. “He's so dedicated to his job and it makes it so much easier on everyone.”

The payoff is getting to see the team succeed, both on the ice and off. Laughner has seen ASU rise to popularity for its uniform combinations thanks to its partnership with Adidas.

That includes a jersey release video with Toronto Maple Leafs superstar and Scottsdale-native Auston Matthews over the past summer.

"We did the gold jersey with Auston Matthews and as soon as that hit, I think the first thing I said is, ‘Ok what do we do for the next one?’" Laughner said. "If we keep topping ourselves, it keeps getting harder and harder to do, but I think that shows that we’re going down the right path.”

The equipment, Al, the personability and the work ethic, all help the equipment office at Oceanside become a place where Laughner does what he does best: work, bond and succeed in his role with ASU hockey.

“We want to be known for having a really good hockey program,” he said. “Hopefully, the (equipment is) a small part of that, and hopefully guys leave here thinking that they had the best equipment staff in the NCAA.”

Reach the reporter at aklatsky@asu.edu and follow @averyklatsky on Twitter. 

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