Cal Alumnus Greg Smith with NHL Washington Capitals
Bruised ribs. Sore muscles. Sprained wrists. It's a normal day on the ice for Greg Smith, head athletic trainer for the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals. Fortunately for Smith, who earned a master's degree in athletic training at Cal U in 1993, he is not on the receiving end of the blows.
Smith is in his fourth season with the Capitals and his sixth season overall in professional hockey. He joined the team in 1999 after serving as head athletic trainer for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Greg also worked as a trainer for Team USA at the 1998 World Hockey Championships, and served as head trainer for the American Hockey League's Baltimore Bandits.
"I'm living a dream," says Smith of his job. "I get to stay at the nicest hotels in the world, ride chartered flights with the team and have the summers off." But when he is working, he covers a lot of ground.
"We travel a lot; 42 road games a season; and I'm gone from home for three months of the year," says Smith. The season was an extended one because the Caps participated in post-season playoffs.
Practice days are pretty easy, according to Greg. "I arrive at practice at around 8 a.m. and do whatever treatments and rehabilitation are needed for the players. I wrap knees, get players ready to practice, and then there's rehab after practice," he says.
Game days are a lot harder. "I go to work at 7 a.m., and if it's a home game, I'm usually home at midnight," he says. "For a road game, I may not be home until 4 in the morning. Of course you never know who's going to get hurt at a game or practice, so anything can happen." But for a guy who loves sports, "it's a pretty good gig," says Smith.
Greg also holds a bachelor's degree in physical education from Salisbury State University with a concentration in special education. He initially became interested in athletic training while at Cal U. "I was a graduate assistant and heard Skip Thayer, trainer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, speak. After listening to him, I really felt hockey would grow and take off as a sport. It's the main reason I went into it."
As a graduate assistant at Cal U, Smith also had the opportunity to work as a high school trainer for Jefferson Morgan High School becoming involved in every sport the high school offered. "Most colleges have only one or two graduate assistants in athletic training," says Smith. "California had 14. It was a great opportunity to be around so many people interested in the field. The program was a great learning experience, and really challenging."
Now living in Dunkirk, MD, Greg has two sons: eight-month-old Parker and three-year-old Hunter. Already following in dad's footsteps, Hunter loves being around the rink and playing with members of the team. "He just lights up went I take him to the rink," says Smith. "These guys are superstars, yet they bring him little things and are awesome in how they treat him. Hunter likes to watch me on TV and he says I have the greatest job in the world. I think he may be right."