One of the most important contributors to a sports team attends every practice and every game but is never a part of the stat line. Rather, he waits quietly, hoping his name is not called upon. Athletic trainers are the unsung heroes for every sports team. From taping ankles to rehabilitating athletes from major surgeries, athletic trainers work tirelessly so that their athletes can be successful.
Head of Athletic Training for the Florida Everblades, Dylan Dewey, is in his second season with the team. Dewey has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in athletic training. He has also worked for the Tampa Bay Lightning and spent a season in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
During normal circumstances, Dewey is incredibly busy, as he arrives well before practice and stays long after to assist players with any needs they may have. Now with the pandemic, he has to assume a bigger role.
“I am a lot more than the guy taping ankles these days,” said Dewey. “You have these guy’s health on your hands, as you always do. But now there is another thing out there that I have to worry about off of the ice. Usually, I am watching over these guys from things that happen on the ice, but now I have to worry about what happens off of the ice.”
To ensure the health and safety of the players, the team must follow protocols such as daily temperature checks and submitting a health survey before every practice. The players and hockey operations staff are also tested twice a week. Dewey oversees all of these tasks and protocols, as the ECHL designated, “COVID Officer.”
“I try to be diligent about these protocols,” stated Dewey. “I tell the guys that these protocols are necessary to meet our goal. Even though these protocols may be inconvenient and different, the end result is that we are allowed to play hockey, we are allowed to have fans here, and we can get back to doing what we all are here for.”
So far this season, the team has been able to fulfill their goal of getting back to hockey. The Blades have only had a handful of instances of players being placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List. Players who are placed on the list are required to sit out due to contact tracing or if they tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, only three games for Florida have had to be postponed thus far.
“The equipment manager, coaching staff and myself have had a lot more responsibilities this year,” said Dewey. “As a staff, we have been really good about making sure the guys are following protocols and being overly cautious in certain situations. It has been a true team effort.”
With just over half of the season completed, the Everblades have been able to continue to work during an unprecedented time.
“Dewey has always played an important role for this team,” said Brad Ralph, Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations for the Everblades. “But this season he has played an even bigger role in taking care of everyone and making sure we stay on the ice.”
Athletic trainers continue to prove that they do more than just provide an ice pack at the end of the game. They are caretakers, confidants, and, now, COVID officers. Dylan Dewey has been an important cog in the Everblades machine ever since he arrived in Southwest Florida. This season he is at the center of it all, keeping players safe and providing a space where players, staff, and fans can get back to hockey.