Stephen Lines, an NHPC member, prides himself on being a competent and more than capable massage therapist. It is his job to be the best he can be for the world-class athletes playing for the Edmonton Oilers.
As a therapist for an NHL hockey team, Stephen is closely involved in each player's health and strength, ensuring they can perform at the highest level for the long 82-game seasons, and even into the playoffs.
Stephen gained his sports massage experience through a variety of different avenues. As a graduate from Wellington College, he started his career in a clinic right below the Hockey Canada offices.
From there, he began building a relationship by treating staff and some players. This led to Stephen working with Team Canada at the World Juniors in 2007.
His passion for treating athletes didn't stop there. Lines then moved on to treating the Calgary Stampeders, which garnered the attention of the Edmonton Oilers. Stephen was lucky enough to land the job as the massage therapist for the team.
When we interviewed him a couple of months ago he was fresh off the Oilers' exciting run into the second round of the NHL playoffs.
NHPC: How was the 2016/2017 season? Must have been exciting to make it that far in the playoffs!
Stephen Lines: Season was excellent; it was nice run we had this year!
NHPC: I am assuming the travel schedule can be quite hectic during such a long season. Is there anything specific you do to keep the players from painful situations?
SL: Road trips are tough. Being in the Western Conference, we often have one of the worst travel schedules in the league. But along with other members of the training staff, we keep a close eye and communicate with each player to ensure they are receiving the treatments, nutrition, or sleep that they need to perform.
NHPC: As the only massage therapist for the Oilers do you find it tough to find time to treat everyone?
SL: It is a challenging day. Communication with the players is so important; I need to make sure that every player has the chance to receive treatment if needed.
NHPC: Does each player have a different treatment plan throughout the season?
SL: Of course, every athlete needs that specific care to ensure they can perform.
During the year, we often don't have hour-long treatments for players. We are usually looking for the most effective fix so they can get back on the ice, attend a meeting, or go train.
NHPC: How important is your relationship with the players on the team?
SL: It is a major part of the job; trust is so important as a therapist. Having the athletes be able to tell me about how they are feeling is huge. It allows me to do my job properly.
NHPC: What kind of things do you and the training staff do on daily basis to help players?
SL: We will watch the player's movement in practices, games, and during off ice training to assist us in how we treat them.
NHPC: Did you find yourself busier during a playoff run that you just had rather than the regular season?
SL: Definitely. The intensity of games and continuous play can wear on them, so making sure they are moving and feeling right is key.
NHPC: Are the treatments more reactive after an injury or do you focus on preventative treatments?
SL: The beauty about the massage is that you don't just deal with one specific injury, so it is both. For an example, a player will come to me one week saying "My legs feel dead, can you give me a flush so I can go out and perform?" The same player could come back the next week with hip tightness, and I can work to make it better. I believe that massage and sports massage can benefit an athlete in so many ways.
NHPC: What do you think is your greatest strength as a therapist?
SL: I think my communication skills are my greatest strength. I have a number of guys each year to work with so communication with them is so vital. The players know me, they like me, and most importantly they trust me, which allows me to do my job. It will free them up as well, because they know that what I am doing will help them.
NHPC: How does the job differ when the team is winning more games than losing?
SL: It doesn't really differ. Hockey is such a demanding sport that massage is always important. I am treating players whether the team is winning or losing.
NHPC: Lastly, what is it like working for the Edmonton Oilers?
SL: It's a dream come true. I worked hard volunteering my time and combined with the love for what I do. I couldn't ask for anything more.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.