Sunday Q & A With Toby BlosserDec 10, 2016
Meet Toby Blosser - Husband, dad, and Utica Comets' athletic trainer. Experiencing his first year in professional hockey, as a staff of one, Blosser is charged with contributing to and coordinating health plans of each player donning a Comets' uniform. Blosser's road to Utica and possible path to the NHL is as humbling as that of players and coaches.
Q: Your family is back home in Saginaw (MI). It must be difficult not seeing them for long periods of time?
A: My wife Christyn, my children Brady (10 yrs.) and Eliza (8 yrs. old) have been great with our situation. With advanced technology these days, with Skype and FaceTime, we have our time together. It's not the same as if they were here, but it helps.
Q: You put in 12-plus hour days, what's your schedule with your children like?
A: I read to them over the phone, sometimes during intermission of our games. This goes a long, long way for me in keeping in touch with them.
Q: Any cities on the Comets' schedule where your family gets to attend games?
A: Toronto is the closest to Saginaw; about 4 hours away. That's where we have a short face-to-face . That's the hardest part of my job, being away from them. But, they (family) are super supportive and understanding of what I do.
Q: What was your first impression of Utica during your initial visit last summer?
A: We were here for 36 hours, and fell in love with the city, and the mountains. Utica is a smaller city, and there's a lot to do around here.
Q: How did the process go, when Vancouver made you an offer to be with the Comets?
A: All three members of my family would have to agree on my coming to Utica. If one said no, then I wasn't going to do it. My son took awhile to come around. I will be going home for Christmas and in January during the all-star break. Amtrak has a train from Todelo to Utica. Toledo is two-hours from Saginaw.
Q: Have you had the moment yet where you feel comfortable to give directions to others in Utica?
A: No. Not at all (laughs). Now, I know how to get to The AUD from my place in Whitesboro. I went from the camps in Vancouver to here (Utica). Now, I'm trying to get lost, and using my GPS to help me find places to enjoy. I found Old Forge in the fall and loved it.
Q: As a staff of one, you must keep busy?
A: I'm usually here (AUD) 7am - 7pm.
Q: You come to the Comets with what experience on the OHL and collegiate levels?
A: I worked with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) as the head trainer for eight full seasons, and Saginaw Valley State University for 12 seasons.
Q: Why now, making a change, and coming to the Comets?
A: This (AHL) is a big step. When this offer came up, like players, you go for it. At a certain age your chance to be in professional sports starts to decrease. As far as the players go, there's no difference than what I saw in juniors, you see the same injuries.
Q: Back to your initial visit to Utica - how long of a drive was it for you?
A: We drove straight to Ontario, then down to Utica. The drive took us about 9.5 hours. By myself, I could make it in seven to eight hours.
Q: First impression of The AUD?
A: I loved the character of the building. I knew some of the history of the building. I knew parts of Slap Shot were filmed here, and the history the building's design has with Madison Square Garden. It's (AUD) an incredible place.
Q: What finally sold you and your family on Utica and the Comets?
A: First, the people at the hotel we were at were super friendly. As we were driving around, I saw Comets stickers on cars. In the restaurants, Comets signage everywhere. We knew this town loves the Comets. When we left Utica, we went home feeling very comfortable about the city. We have a cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Utica reminds us as a mini-version of that area.
Q: You're a member of a hall of fame. How did that happen?
A: I was the athletic trainer for SVSU's 2003 football team (the only team in school's history to finish a regular season with an unblemished record, going a perfect 11-0). The team was full of incredible people with incredible character. I still keep in touch with some of the players. (The 2003 Cardinal football team was inducted into the SVSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014)
Q: What influenced you to pursuing your chosen career?
A: It started for me when I was 13-years-old. I was in the sixth grade, and the water boy for the high school football team. That's also when I was taught how to tape players. It just so happened that the team's trainer's brother was the assistant trainer for the Detroit Lions.
Q: Is this how you would later work with the Lions' athletic training staff?
A: For five years, the Lions used SVSU as their training center. I helped out there taping guys up, and at some home games at the Silverdome. That was a tremendous experience.
Q: You met the late, great Muhammad Ali, while with the Lions. Exciting?
A: Yes. He would come to Lions games. So, I'm, taping a lineman's hand, and over my shoulder he's (Ali) standing. He didn't talk much, but his presence was incredible. (Ali) starts shadowboxing with the guys. He put his hands in front of me to be taped, then put his fists in front of me. That was the highlight of anything I've done.
Q: What other NFL team were you involved with?
A: Back in the late '80's and early 90's, I was an intern with the Cleveland Browns. That's when they were good (laughs). Again, that was an amazing opportunity. I also helped them move into their new facility.
Q: A typical day for you as trainer to the Comets is.......?
A: I get in (The AUD) by 7:00 - 7:30am, set things up; hot and cold tubs, get ice, then read the morning newspaper. By 8:00-8:30am, treatments begin. After rehab, the morning workout starts, usually at 11:00am to 12:00 or 1:00pm. Then, post-practice treatment starts. I set up any doctor appointments for the players, take care of emails and phone calls, and communicate with Vancouver on a daily basis.
Q: And your other duties?
A: I take inventory, get ready for the next day, pack our gear for road trips, prepare injury reports for the coaching staff (we usually meet at 8:00am).
Q: What do you want hockey fans to know about trainers?
A: There's a lot of self-gratification. We work crazy hours because we love it. What we do isn't a job, it's a lifestyle.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Blosser: Go Comets!
Interview conducted by: Don Laible