By Ryan J. Harr
A pioneer in athletic training. A hard-working and genuine guy. The glue that holds what goes on behind the scenes.
All words used to describe Rochester Americans assistant athletic trainer, Kent “Snacky” Weisbeck.
On Sunday, March 10, Weisbeck, in his remarkable 34th season with the Amerks, worked his 2,500 regular-season game as a member of Rochester’s storied franchise. As reported by Kevin Oklobzija of Pickin’ Splinters, the milestone is believed to be an AHL record for a certified athletic trainer. Only one athletic trainer in the NHL, Pete Demers, has worked more games. Demers was on the Los Angeles Kings bench for 2,632 games.
Following the game, a 6-1 win over the Binghamton Devils, Weisbeck was awarded the game puck and was deemed the “player of the game.” Earlier in the week, he was presented with a watch by the team and coaching staff in recognition of his achievement.
“I never thought when I first started in 1985, I would be here so many games and so many years later,” Weisbeck said. “I had a few shots to potentially move on to the National Hockey League, but things just didn’t work out. I think it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though.”
There couldn’t be more truth to that.
WATCH: KENT WEISBECK TESTIMONIAL COMPILATION
The Buffalo native got his start with the Amerks as a 28-year-old after working eight years as an assistant athletic trainer from 1977-1985 at the University of Buffalo. Weisbeck graduated UB in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education and a minor in athletic training.
“In college, I went to get a physical education degree, but I did not want to get into teaching, so I got a minor in athletic training instead,” explained Weisbeck, the first-ever athletic trainer in the 63-year history of the franchise to be inducted into the Amerks Hall of Fame in 2010. “I really enjoyed earning a minor, as I had an interest in sports and working around athletes.”
Over his incredible career, Weisbeck, who soon adopted the affable nickname ‘Snacky’ because he used to be summoned to the snack bar at Lake Shore rink for important phone calls regarding player movement and transactions prior to the cell phone era, has earned two Calder Cup rings (1987 and 1996), worked in the Calder Cup Finals on five other occasions and was the head trainer in two AHL All-Star Classics.
“Snacky is a role model to me and everyone he comes in contact with,” said Bob Mowry, who is in his fourth season as the team's head athletic trainer. “I learn something everyday from him. He has seen it all, done it all and been through it all. With his experience, I rely on him for everything. He exemplifies everything an athletic trainer should be.”
“It’s remarkable to be in any place for as long as he has,” Amerks defenseman Nathan Paetsch, who also has a pair of Calder Cup championship rings, said. “He has been around for so long and literally done everything, especially when being an athletic trainer was a one-man show. He would unpack the bags, take care of the players and help with equipment.”
In recent seasons, Weisbeck, who now works every home game and is a permanent fixture at practices, no longer travels so he can oversee the rehabilitation and health for the injured players while the team is on the road.
“He cares a lot about us players,” said Jack Dougherty, who missed 11 games due to an injury earlier this season. “I don’t’ think you could find a more incredible human being than Snacky. He is professional about getting us back on the ice as soon as possible but he makes it fun to come to the arena every day.”
Weisbeck has worked for 11 head coaches, applied thousands of ice packs and ridden countless miles on bus rides. More incredibly, he has missed only seven games over the course over his 34 seasons with the Amerks.
“As a former player, he was unbelievable,” recalls Amerks head coach Chris Taylor, who also had Weisbeck during his playing career. “The advice that he provided me when he saved my leg, his medical knowledge and his professionalism are just some of his traits that make him so special.”
“Snacky is usually one of the first guys to arrive at the rink and last to leave it,” said Amerks team captain Kevin Porter, who is now in his fourth season with the Amerks. “He does all the little things that most people don’t see or appreciate. He takes care of the guys and is truly great at his job. To be in one organization for such a long time, it truly is amazing.”
“Now in the coaching stage of my career, he taught me all the little things, such as protecting the player, but I love how he always wants what is best for the players and help them through the adversity of being injured,” added Taylor.
While the players, coaches, management and staff have all changed over the last 34 seasons, Weisbeck has remained the constant and hopes the future stays the same.
“I’m looking forward to working the next 500 games and wouldn’t mind if there are a few more Calder Cups championships along the way,” joked Weisbeck.