Hitting the ice during the pandemic has been a unique and demanding experience for the Manitoba Moose, but it’s been on another level for members of the organization’s off-ice staff.
They’re the individuals hauling overtime hours just to ensure games could be played as scheduled.
“Taping, working on massage, stretching, whatever we can do in our ability to get those guys’ bodies ready for that game,” says the team’s head athletic therapist Zach Salmonson.
Salmonson just wrapped up his seventh season with the Moose and he confirmed the campaign could easily clinch ‘most unusual season’ in recent memory.
“Often my job is running around telling guys, ‘Hey, put that on, put this on, make sure you’re staying safe and keep that distance apart.’ It’s a little like babysitting but I get it, it’s to try and keep us as safe in that bubble as we can.”
His daily duties were quickly turned upside down at the start of the season as he quickly slid into the unofficial role of the team’s protocol watchdog amid the pandemic.
Salmonson also oversees daily COVID-19 testing for all Moose players and staff.
In-person video meetings were prohibited for the majority of the year, so Moose video coach Richard Bue and his staff had to get creative with the way they present video.
Bue says the innovation has definitely led to more opportunities for player feedback.
“We’re using technology to send individual player meetings before that next game so that guys can watch their shifts every game but they also get video meetings from the coaches on the same platforms that we use,” Bue said.
“That’s something that we never have time to do.”
Whether it’s been finding new avenues to streamline the way things are done or making health and safety decisions on the fly, the pandemic has provided many difficult challenges and unique learning opportunities as the Moose head into the off-season.
“COVID made it that much more demanding, makes it that many more things to think about as the day goes on,” says Salmonson.
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