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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dana Heinze: Blademaster @ChicksDigHockey

I have a game day guilty pleasure. Every game day, I find a comfortable, private place and check out Dana Heinze’s Twitter feed.

                                                     Photo Courtesy:Dave Sandford

 I love it. He shows us things mere mortals don’t have access to. For those of you who just crawled out from under a rock, Heinze is the Head Equipment Manager for the Penguins. He joined the Twitterverse in this past year and I’m captivated.  He has over 12K followers. Do you know how many he follows? ZERO. That’s how cool he is. He doesn’t follow his employer the @Penguins and he doesn’t even follow Geno!

Heinze was interviewed for a publication called Blademaster (because he is) about working with some of the greatest hockey players on the planet. “When you do this job, there are two things that are most important; confidence and consistency,” Heinze told Blademaster. “You have to know what you’re talking about.”

 He related a story to Blademaster about working with Sid to get his skates just right. Sid could hear a clicking in his skates that was distracting him and making him think his blades were lose when they weren’t. “We use washers with the screws that hold his blade in and we also put Teflon tape (plumber’s tape), which is very thin, on the bottom of his blade, mount it in there and then put the screws in,” Heinze revealed. “Then I put Loctite in the screw.” It’s the details and the willingness to do whatever it takes that make Heinze so valuable to the team.

                                          Sidney Crosby, Dana Heinze and Dave Sandford 2009
                                                     (Photo courtesy of Dave Sandford)

Heinze joined the Pens' staff in Sid’s second season. At that time, Crosby would only wear one set of skates per season. He preferred to repair them rather than change to a new pair. This meant he was wearing them past the point of breakdown. The average player goes thru 4 pair of skates over a season. Heinze had to work hard to get Sid to change skates even once in the season.  Crosby told Blademaster “The biggest repair I need on my skates is usually the eyelets, I like to tie my skates pretty tight, so that puts a lot of pressure on the eyelets. Usually, the top two eyelets always need to be replaced. Just because I get my skates. sharpened so much, they wear down pretty quick, so it’s important to switch (blades) pretty often.” To prepare for this, Heinze and his team pre-contoured eight pairs of extra blades at the beginning of the season.

                                                      Photo Courtesy:Dave Sandford

If you think all Heinze does is take care of skates, you’d be mistaken. In addition to servicing skates, he and his crew keep busy sewing jerseys, adjusting the curve on sticks, repairing damaged equipment, and everything else including washing clothes. He also makes sure details are attended to like during the very first  Winter Classic in 2008 making sure the team changed jerseys after warm-ups and after each period. One of those game-worn jerseys went to the players, the rest to the league, its Players Association and the team. Dan Bylsma once told Pittsburgh Magazine, “The detail with which he prepares our team is second to none”
 A Johnstown, Pa. native, Dana's claim to fame was playing one game in goal with the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL in 1988-89 while serving as the team's head trainer. He is a two time Stanley Cup winner (2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins; 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning) Heinze is an aficionado of the game, and in 2007, he contributed to a book titled, 'Slap Shots and Snapshots: 50 Seasons of Pro Hockey in Johnstown.'  Fun Fact: He enjoys listening to the Clarks while he works.

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