CRAIG SCHROTER Special to The Standard
KAWARTHA LAKES: You’ve all seen him around the rink if you attend any of the Lindsay Jr. A Muskies games, always going here or there, with a piece of equipment, or a bunch of water bottles, or taking a minute to lean up against the glass and cheer the boys on. He’s one of those people you always see but may not stop and talk to as he’s not a player, not a coach, or a general manager. None the less once you take a minute to speak with him, you soon realize that none of the product you’re seeing on the ice happens without his efforts, and it is a much bigger effort than most of us know. His name is Ken Bannister and he is the Equipment/Dressing Room Manager for the Lindsay Jr. A Muskies. Ken took on the role a few years ago and although I attend virtually every home game, my duties keep me busy with other things and it wasn’t until a game just a couple of weeks ago while leaning up against the glass watching the play that I actually took the opportunity to have a conversation with him, and I soon came to appreciate just how important
Ken is to the team.
I took a minute during the game on January 31st to sit down with Ken and do a proper interview. We sat in the Muskies dressing room, Ken’s home away from home during the third period. He has a short break at that point, after having refilled all the bottles for the bench for the third, and before all the post game clean up.
I asked Ken, who will turn 75 shortly, to describe a typical game day experience for himself. “I arrive at the rink by 4:30 p.m. for our 7:40 p.m. games, I have to get the water ready, other juice drinks mixed up, get the Clif Bars [A popular energy bar], get the jerseys and socks all ready, [and] all the tape. Basically anything the players need for the game, and the players will always come up with something extra that they need. Then you have to get the stick rack, first aid kit, pucks for the game, ice packs and whatever else crops up unexpectedly.” He is also responsible for making sure the referees have Clif Bars, and towels.
The intermissions are times when Ken is busy refilling bottles and just generally getting everything ready for the players for the next period. When the game ends, and the fans are going home, Ken still has a lot to do. “Well, you have to get all of the stuff back off of the bench and from the referee’s room. You have to wheel the big cart of sticks back around to the dressing room.” he said. It’s basically the reverse of everything that he did before the game. “Empty all the coolers and wipe them out and get the laundry bins out. One for towels, one for jerseys, one for socks, and one for gitches, and then you have to wash all of that stuff”. When asked if he does all the laundry after the game he said he puts an emphasis on getting the gitches done first. In the case of the game on this night he said because the players have an off day the following day he may wait to do the rest of the laundry on Saturday. In other words a day off for the team doesn’t mean a day off for Ken. He explained to me he doesn’t want to just turn the washing machine on and then not return until the next day the team is on the ice, in case one of the machines has broken down. You can tell that he takes great pride in making sure that nothing is left to chance and things are all ready when the players return.
All told Ken gets out sometime around 11:30 p.m. on a typical game night. I know that the players on the team greatly appreciate all that Ken does. “The players are excellent with me, they’ve really treat me good, and the whole staff has really treat me good, I’ve got no complaints at all,” he said.
Ken also mentioned that he receives a lot of help from Oli Moyer both on game nights, and on practice days as the team practices many times throughout the week. Not much changes as he has to be there ahead to get out tape, various jerseys as the players have different jerseys depending on what drill they are doing, the water bottles again have to go to the benches, the strategy drawing boards, towels and pucks. He doesn’t have much to do during the practice, but once it’s over all the stuff has to come back and the never ending laundry starts again.
During one of my conversations earlier with Ken, the topic of road games came up. Naïve on my part I guess, but I did not realize Ken travels with the team on the road. I suppose I should have known. “Yeah, we’ve got a big box in here and all the stuff we need for the game, we’ve got a big bag for all the sticks, and there’s a bag for all the jerseys, towels, socks, gitches, tape, all that sort of stuff, water, Clif Bars and you’ve got to load the bus. The players are really good as they don’t let me lift anything heavy at my age,” he added with a chuckle.
So to recap, on a weekend that the team had recently, Bannister after having worked at practices all week would have arrived at the rink Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. and left after 11 p.m., was back at the rink with the laundry done Saturday afternoon, ready to load the bus and head to Brampton with the team. After getting back to the rink from Brampton and finishing up his cleaning, he gets home about 1:30 a.m. or 2 a.m. Then on Sunday he needed to be at the rink again for mid morning to prepare for the bus trip to Wellington for an afternoon game, getting back to Lindsay in the evening. I mentioned that he is 75, right?
I asked Ken to tell me about himself. He started out as a kid working for his father doing painting, decorating and wallpapering, then he got a job in General Motors (GM), where he spent thirty and a half years. During that time he got his pilot’s license and did carpentry work. He also spent some time as an auxiliary police officer here in Lindsay, but gave that up because his wife worried that he may not come home to her and their children. He stayed with GM and is glad he did.
Ken and his wife Ethel have three children. One is in Brooks, Alberta, one is in Kingston, and one is in Belleville. There was a fourth child as well who tragically passed away in a drowning accident. Ken’s wife resides at Victoria Manor here in Lindsay.
I asked Ken about any hobbies he has and came back to his pilot’s license. He says he let it go because it just became too expensive. It was handy to have at one point because his wife came from a part of Vancouver Island that was only accessible by boat or plane, but she had a scary experience on a plane one time and never cared if she ever saw one again. So Ken spent the money on something they both could enjoy. He still enjoys doing carpentry work, and woodworking although he doesn’t get much time for it during the hockey season. “I’m not saying I want to see the hockey end, but I’m looking forward to getting a bit of a break. I want to build a deck on my house, and paint it and stuff”, he said.
Bannister mentioned that he has been approached about coming back for another season, but at this point he seems at least to me to be non committal about that. Whether or not he decides to return I think I speak for all of us involved with the Lindsay Muskies including staff, coaches, players and fans when I say how thankful we are for what Ken has done, and continues to do for our team.