The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 10, 2008

Pens depend on ‘Johnstown Crew’

It’s a typical Stanley Cup playoff game day at Mellon Arena. The Johnstown Crew is putting in a full shift, plus overtime.

Head equipment manager Dana Heinze navigates the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room, which, thanks to Heinze and his staff, is an efficiently organized and user-friendly haven for a mostly young and talented group of players.

Heinze sharpens a pair of skates, locates a piece of equipment, restocks sticks or fills a bin with various brands of tape requested by superstitious Pens accustomed to using only a particular kind on their respective sticks.

“Even Georges Laraque has to have a cup full of bubble gum in his stall,” Heinze said with a laugh. “After the players leave, we go through that room and make it look like a showroom.”

There rarely is a slow time for Heinze, whose list of things to do seems to be never-ending.

A few feet away, head athletic trainer Chris Stewart tends to players’ bumps, bruises and sprains. Stewart has seen “three too many” high-ankle sprains this season – as in the injuries that slowed down Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Maxime Talbot.

Stewart and his assistant, Scott Adams, spent recent days concerned about a broken bone in Talbot’s right foot suffered in Game 3 of the New York Rangers series. Talbot is expected back tonight for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against visiting Philadelphia.

“So far, knock on wood, we’ve been pretty healthy,” Stewart said. “You do whatever you can to keep these guys on the ice. It’s the playoffs, do or die, so you have to have your best lineup out there, whatever it takes.”

In an adjoining room, Dave Zeigler performs a number of tasks that, depending on the time of day, range from sewing worn uniforms and socks to replacing a broken clasp on an elbow pad to cleaning the faceshields on players helmets during intermissions or addressing the most pressing duty of the moment.

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