Dave Westbury’s office looks a little different these days.
The equipment manager for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team is working out of a shipping container in the bowels of SaskTel Centre this season while the Huskies take up temporary residence at the facility.
The team’s regular home at Merlis Belsher Place is currently set up as a coronavirus field hospital, so Westbury has outfitted his new workshop as best he can. It’s not ideal, but it does the trick.
“We tried to set up a nice equipment room where everything’s handy and if I’m not here that somebody can grab something to easily repair something if they needed to before practice,” he said.
Next to the workshop is a makeshift locker room and players’ lounge. The Huskies are not playing any conference games this season but the team is still practising together and Westbury says it’s important that the players have as “normal” a routine as possible despite the circumstances.
“That was the biggest thing. Try to make them feel comfortable, give them a stall in the room,” he said.
The attention to detail and desire for student-athletes to have a positive experience are things the Huskies have come to expect from Westbury, who’s now in his 11th season with the team after several years as a minor hockey coach.
Believe it or not, he didn’t even sign on to be the equipment manager.
“(Head coach) Steve (Kook) asked me to join the team kind of in a video role essentially and then after a couple of days he asked me if I would learn how to sharpen skates,” Westbury said.
In those early days, Westbury would diagram plays during games and sharpen skates between periods.
“As the needs of the players evolved and the program evolved and sort of what we offered and the services that we’re able to do and all those sorts of things there was more of a need to have someone on staff full time to do the equipment side,” Kook explained.
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So Westbury went to school.
“Zero experience, to be honest. My dad sharpened skates growing up but I remember how he was sharpening skates and how we sharpen skates now is totally different,” he said.
Learning the ins and outs of skate sharpening was just the start. Westbury is continuously honing his craft, adding new skills along the way. When he needed to learn how to stitch name bars onto jerseys, help was just a phone call away.
“I had a 20-minute face time with my mom one day on the sewing machine, how to thread it, and pretty much learn as I go,” he said.
“I never thought I’d be sewing when I grew up but it’s peaceful. You do the job, get it done, then move on to the next project.”
After more than a decade on the job, Westbury has made it his own.
“He’s at the point where I just leave him alone and he’s designing dressing rooms and travel bins and stuff like that. He’s done a lot of this development himself and sort of created the position as he sees fit,” Kook said.
Be it skates, helmets or anything in between, Westbury has the players’ needs covered from head to toe.
“He’s the glue that keeps this whole team together. He really is. He is the best guy around if you need anything done, you can go to him and he’ll do it right away for you,” goaltender Camryn Drever said.
Westbury is also the team’s number one fan.
“Making sure no one misses a shift in a game, Dave is always there, or he’s getting fired up yelling at the refs. There’s no aspect of our game that Dave isn’t involved in and we appreciate him so much. We’re so lucky to have him,” forward Bailee Bourassa said.
Westbury’s commitment to the Huskies is evident in the fact that he supports the team in his spare time, working a full-time day job before heading to the rink to fulfill his duties.
He’s paid a modest honorarium but being part of some of the Huskies biggest victories is a far greater reward.
Westbury was there for the team’s one and only Canada West championship in 2014, two trips to nationals, a 2019 triple overtime playoff thriller against Mount Royal University and many more memorable wins.
“I just like to see the girls succeed. That’s the biggest thing is if they win the game and they’re happy, we’re happy,” he said.
He hopes to continue sharing in that success for years to come.
“The passion for the game is still there, probably more than it ever has been because we’re trying to push for that national championship, but yeah I enjoy every minute of it,” he said.
The Huskies wouldn’t have it any other way.