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October 1, 2017

It’s A Snap Blog: All about equipment

Ladies, thank you for your continued support of the It’s A Snap blog.

I love hearing your feedback and questions when I see you at the games and appreciate your interest in what I’m writing about next.

I’ve been asked about equipment from several of you, specifically about the cost associated with outfitting a 46-man roster.

So I went right to the source: the man, the myth, the legend – Equipment Manager extraordinaire George Hopkins. Affectionately known as “Geo,” he has worked 46 seasons with the Stampeders. That’s not a typo.

Geo took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer some of your questions.

Alanna: In terms of cost of equipment, what are the Stamps responsible for and what does the league cover?

Geo: Basically hard goods are totally on us, so all the helmets, all the shoulder pads, all the injury pads, that’s completely a club expenditure. The actual on-field clothing, both from sideline apparel and field stuff, is adidas. That is a league sponsorship agreement, so we get a certain amount of clothing free and then the rest of it we buy.

A: After 46 seasons, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in equipment?

G: It is certainly getting lighter. You look at a pair of shoulder pads now – and the pads that I’m buying are about $600 a pair – a fully decked-out lineman set of pads is a little over three pounds. Which people just say, ‘it’s how much?’ I mean, they rival weight for helmets now so it’s got much, much lighter. It’s gotten much more protective. Just to put it in perspective, hockey equipment has gotten bigger and bulkier and now they’re complaining there’s too much plastic on hockey equipment, that’s what’s causing some of the concussions, the hard elbow pads, the hard shoulders. Ours have gone the exact opposite way. So the two sports will meet in the middle one day but that’s probably the biggest thing. I mean a pair of shoes now is 2.8 ounces. Which is just ridiculous. Technology has made things much, much better.

A: Where do you find the latest technology for equipment?

G: Gordie (Assistant Equipment Manager Gord Taillefer) and I go down to the coaches’ convention each year which is where the CFL equipment managers have our meetings as well. We’re down there for four or five days. It’s kind of a captive market for the manufacturers so I think this year there’s in the neighbourhood of 190 different football manufacturers, everything from video to shoulder pads. We found step-over ladders last year at this place that have really worked out well for our guys. It’s amazing what you can find. Whistle balls came from there. There’s a lot of different things that you find but it’s a chance for the manufacturers to meet. At a good coaches’ convention, they’ll average 12 to 14 thousand coaches, and that’s everything from Pop Warner up to pro and the nice thing is you don’t need to know anybody’s name because everybody that you see it’s just ‘Hey Coach, Hey Coach.’

A: What happens if a player wants a specific brand of equipment you don’t provide?

G: If there’s a valid reason why he wants to wear something besides what I will provide, we will pay for that but I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had over the years maybe three guys that didn’t like what we were using. A helmet is the same type of thing. If a guy wants something that we don’t have, we’ll get it for him, providing that it meets all the recommendations and all the approvals but I mean we’ve got eight different models of helmets from three different manufacturers so if you want it, it’s here. But if there’s a legitimate reason a guy wants something different, we’ll take care of that for him.

A: Speaking of helmets, you brought in two new helmets for Bo Levi Mitchell and Deron Mayo this year. What can you tell us about them?

G: It’s called a Precision-Fit so they did a scan of their head and then they built it specific for that player so it fits them like a glove, doesn’t fit anybody else at all, so it is personalized for those guys.

For those of you who don’t know, Geo and his team host a Locker-Room Sale at the end of each season. It’s a great opportunity to buy the game-worn jerseys, helmets and equipment of your favorite Stampeders players for a great deal! Check back on Stampeders.com for the official date!