STUCK IN HERSHEY FOR 25 YEARS...PART ONE
08/10/2009 - As seen in the game program Jim Starr, BEARS Staff Writer HERSHEY BEARS Trainer Dan Stuck (better known as "Beaker") is celebrating his 25th consecutive year as head trainer for the BEARS. Actually, his affiliation with the BEARS started when he was 12 years old in 1977, (Ooooppps, sorry Beaker, my guess is that everyone is doing the math right now). He was a "hang around kid" in the locker room helping out where ever he could as a team assistant. The 85-86 season was when I first met Beaker. I was Color Announcer / Analyst on the HERSHEY BEARS Radio Network with Dan Kamal, (who is now Play-by-play for the Atlanta Thrashers). Sit back, relax and enjoy the questions, answers and comments about Dan "Beaker" Stuck's colorful career in Chocolate Town, USA. Jim Starr: Dan, I see you have a "Beaker Wall of Fame" here in the trainer's room. An 8x10 team photo on the wall for every year you have been involved with the Bears in one way or another, and you are in every team photo dating back to 1979. Let's start there. Dan "Beaker" Stuck: That was a Calder Cup Team and the last time the BEARS won the Championship at home. There's a lot of fond memories I see on that picture right now, and some of the more memorable players were Gary Rissling, Stover, he was a local guy, Doug Gibson the coach, Noel, Bob and Chuck Trend you see there were the trainers. Starr: You have some NHL experience. Tell us about that. Beaker: In 1984-85, I took the position of Assistant Trainer and Equipment Manager with the Philadelphia Flyers. Some of the well known names on the Philly team that year were Tim Kerr, Brian Propp, Billy Barber and more. That was the team that went to the NHL finals against Edmonton. The following season I came back to Hershey for the 1985-86 season and was name Head Trainer of the HERSHEY BEARS. Starr: Any good stories while you were with the Flyers? Beaker: Edmonton came into town for a playoff game at the Spectrum, and they were headed over to New Jersey at the practice rink and their bus broke down. They called the Flyers right away to see if they had a way to pick up the Oilers and get the team to the practice rink. I got into the big box truck we had and headed over to transport the Oilers. When I got there, the Oilers had to pile into the back of the empty box truck and sit on the floor. A few players sat up front with me, they were Wayne Gretsky and Paul Coffee. Starr: You mean an NHL final team had to load up into the back of one of those box trucks that are used to deliver furniture, sort of like a large size U-haul truck. Beaker: (smile) Yes Starr: Why didn't you make some real fast sharp turns and get those guys rolling around in the back of the truck and start banging their heads against the inside walls? (laugh) Beaker: I had a responsibility for their safety, and in hockey, there's a mutual respect and professionalism between teams and I was just doing my job. You don't take things personally with other organizations. Even with referee's, they may call a terrible game, but off the ice they are some of the nicest guys and you're always making new friends with who ever comes to town. Starr: Let's skip over to the 1980 picture on the wall. What memories do you have from that season? Beaker: Well, the first guy that sticks out is Archie Henderson, Gary Inness was one of the goaltenders, there's Took's up top there (Tim Tookey) and of course in most of the photos you are going to see Frank Mathers. Frank is how I got started with the BEARS. He taught me a lot and guided me through all the things I had to learn. He would even take me golfing and teach me how to play. He was just a good man, and I think of him a lot, especially when I look at all these team photos. Frank was like a father figure to me. Starr: Frank was truly a kind, generous person and all the players loved him. As a 15 year old, I was an usher at the Hershey Sports Arena, and back then, fans were allowed to come out on to the ice and skate after the game. I used to sit at the end of the BEARS bench with about five minutes left and start putting on my skates. Frank was coaching then and he never ever once said a thing to me about sitting next to the players on the bench. In any other town the coach would surely say "Hey kid, get off the bench"! But not Frank. Beaker: Frank once told me that one of the toughest things for him was to tell someone no. What ever a fan wanted or if friends needed tickets, Frank would always say yes. He even gave me his old hockey pants with his autograph; it's in my basement on display. Starr: So I guess over the years you have collected a lot of hockey items, your basement is probably like a hockey museum. Beaker: Yes, I have a lot of cool stuff. Wayne Gretsky gave me an autographed stick. Starr: I guess so, you let him sit up front in the box truck. (laugh) Beaker: (smile) I have the old Dominion hockey sticks that were made by a guy in Hummelstown and used by a lot of big names in the AHL and NHL. Starr: I used to make those sticks! I worked for Dom Dominick in his garage in Hummelstown. My job was to wrap the stick blades with fiberglass and then varnish. Beaker: No way! When ever I talk about Dominion sticks, people have no idea what I'm talking about. You are one of the first people who know what I'm talking about. Starr: I would deliver Dominion sticks to players too. He would send me to Philadelphia to give sticks to Barry Ashbee, and he sent me to Baltimore to give Willie Marshall his supply. I stayed for the Baltimore Clippers game that night and watched Willie Marshall break the AHL points record, and I believe he was using one of the Dominion sticks I delivered to him earlier that day. Let's look at the 1985-86 team picture. This was the year where Gary Inness was fired as head coach, and then Frank Mathers took over for a while, and then Bill Barber was given the honors because of Hershey's NHL affiliate with Philadelphia. At that time Boston was also a Hershey NHL affiliate. This team had some good players. I believe Bobby Mormina was the fastest skater in the league, and remember Todd Bergen? Beaker: Oh yes, what a shot! Starr: He had a wrister second only to Gordie Howe. Beaker: He had a bright future with the Flyers, but he switched to professional golf I believe. Starr: This team also had Paul Guay, just off the plane from the Olympics where he played for the United States. There was also Hilly (Al Hill), Ross Fitzpatrick, Don Nachbaur, Steve Smith, a hard checking Boston hopeful, Mike Stothers, Goalie Bob Froese, but they just couldn't play as a team. Beaker: I think most of those guys had a hard time playing together because they were owned by several teams and were playing different systems. Starr: In 1987-88 John Paddock was brought in and Hershey went with only one NHL affiliate, Philadelphia. Beaker: That was a tough team. You had Daryl Stanley, Mike Stothers, Craig Berube suits up, John Stevens, (now the head coach of the Flyers), Brian Dobbin, Kevin McCarthy, Donnie Biggs, and goaltender Wendell Young. And of course the 87-88 team went on to become Calder Cup Champions. This is the team that swept every playoff opponent and won 12 straight playoff games to win the Cup. Starr: How many Calder Cup Championship have you enjoyed as the trainer? Beaker: Three, 1987-88, 1996-97 and 2005-06. Technically it's four cups if you include 1979-80 when I was a locker room assistant, but my name didn't go on the Cup. Starr: Were there any sad situations that you had to deal with as the trainer? Beaker: One of the most sad memories is Yanick Dupre. He was young and had some good years here and then he passed away. There were also some other players that died, and I witnessed some career ending injuries too. Here in the 93-94 picture you see Vinnie Prospal. Boy he could turn some games around. When he was hot-he was hot! Starr: I was video taping the game at the Arena where he scored his first AHL goal. I have it all caught on tape, and boy did he celebrate.
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