October 19, 2010
by Kyle Kujawa - griffinshockey.com
Four games into the season, fans are still getting used to several new faces on the Grand Rapids Griffins’ bench. To find one of them, fans must look beyond the Griffins jerseys to where the coaches and training personnel stand. There they will find the team’s new medical therapist, Brad Shaw.
Shaw was hired this summer to fill a big pair of shoes -- those of departing medical therapist Rob Snitzer, who had been with the team for each if its first 14 seasons. Known as “Snitzy” to longtime fans of the team, he accepted a sales position with Dynasplint, an orthopedic products manufacturer.
The move to West Michigan happened rather quickly for Shaw, who was hired in late August. Moving from Western Canada to Grand Rapids on short notice was difficult, but Shaw has been pleased with his transition.
“Everybody in Grand Rapids and Detroit has treated me with the utmost class,” said Shaw. “I’d say it was a bit of a struggle for them to get me here on such late notice, but I really appreciate that they did.”
Shaw, who grew up in a small town outside of Brandon, Manitoba, graduated with a sports science degree from the University of Manitoba in 2004 and became a certified athletic therapist in 2005. Having played hockey growing up, he got his first behind-the-scenes experience the following season.
“Straight out of school, I landed a job with a professional baseball team in Winnipeg called the Goldeyes,” said Shaw. “I worked with them in the summertime as my main job, and helped out with the [Manitoba] Moose as a third medical guy in the winter.”
Shaw made contacts in the hockey world and eventually moved from the AHL to the WHL in 2007, taking a job with the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, British Columbia. He worked there for three seasons as the head athletic therapist and equipment manager before moving to Grand Rapids.
“Working junior, you’re always trying to further your career and move up to the next level,” he said.
Griffins general manager Bob McNamara said there was a lot of interest about the open position.
“You go through your network of people that you know in the business, and you talk to them about people who are available, that they’ve had before who were good, that were maybe at a lower level,” said McNamara. “We heard nothing but great things about Brad.”
“We did a lot of checking on it, and we had a lot of qualified candidates. But again, it was basically what he had done for some of the people we know, and that kind of sealed it for us,” McNamara continued. “He’s been fantastic.”
With the season now in full swing, Shaw is still getting used to the new job and life in West Michigan.
“The city is great, my wife [Cori] loves it here,” said Shaw. “There’s a million and one things to do. With ArtPrize just finishing up, there’s no shortage of anything to do here.”
One of Shaw’s duties was to lend a hand at the Red Wings’ training camp in Traverse City, where he got his first taste of his new job and found comfort courtesy of some familiar names.
“I recognized a lot of names like Brent Raedeke and Willie Coetzee,” said Shaw, referring to the Griffins’ rookies from the WHL. “I knew these guys a little bit, but when the big guys come into town and you get your Zetterbergs and Datsyuks coming in, you kind of feel out of place for the first while.”
“You realize that your job is a job, and they’re built the same way anyone else is built, just a little bit bigger, faster, and better at what they do than other people. It’s pretty surreal, but it was a neat experience, and I look forward to working with them more in the future.”
Shaw says there are definitely a few things he will miss about Kootenay.
“I miss the mountains,” Shaw said. “I never thought I would get to love the mountains as much as I did when I moved out there. Now that they’re not around, you sure do notice, and you sure miss them.”
Despite the flatter landscape, Shaw says he isn’t experiencing any culture shock.
“I grew up on the prairies, which is sort of like the life here,” said Shaw. “You’re always going to meet friends, and you’re always going to find good people wherever you go. The lifestyle is pretty much the same, you just roll with it.”
McNamara echoed Shaw’s statement on the lifestyle adjustment.
“The job is pretty much the job, it’s similar in every city,” said McNamara. “The difference is different types of cities, different types of venues. He was dealing with junior kids, and now he’s dealing with a little bit older athletes.”
“I think it’s all good for him, the fact that he was able to come up with us to Traverse City and interact with the Red Wings’ guys to see how they do business, and be able to work with our guys and pros. That part of the transition has been smooth for him, but in the end, hockey’s hockey.”