If anyone knows the nuances of the Ghostriders line up this season, it’s Kayla Neufeld. The team’s athletic therapist works with the team, accompanying them on the road as well as attending every home game.
“I do a pre-game stuff, so whether that’s taping, massage, loosening up or stretching. And then on ice, I do during game injury treatment, so if they go down or need to be cleaned up from a high stick, I deal with all of that. And then any injuries that they do suffer, then we treat them outside of the rink in our office, which is Fernie Athletic Therapy,” said Neufeld.
The Ghostriders have been working with Fernie Athletic Therapy for nearly a decade, and primarily with Neufeld since 2009. She was brought in to work specifically as the Ghostriders’ full time athletic therapist. It makes for a long season, as she travels to nearly every away game with the team, engulfing her weekends, but she loves her work and the team.
“It’s a great organization to work for. The players are always so respectful, so thankful for what services we offer them and they are just a fun group of players to work with,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to walk into on any given night. You get to know the players a little bit differently than just a team environment when they do get hurt. It can be interesting. It makes for a very long season, because I give up all of my weekends to travel with them, but it’s fun at the same time.”
Originally from Leduc, Alta., Neufeld earned a Bachelor of Science specializing in Kinesiology from the University of Edmonton before earning a degree in athletic therapy from Sheraton College.
“My original plan was actually physiotherapy, which is similar but different,” she said. “And it was right around that time that I started to work with the hockey team, which is what I love. It’s awesome. It’s kind of where I first started my passion of working with teams.”
This season has been challenging for Neufeld due to the number of injuries the Ghostriders line up has suffered.
“I honestly don’t know why we have been plagued with injuries this early in the season. It’s not unusual – normally we do see some injuries early on in the season but for as long as I can remember I have never seen a season this bad with this many injuries this early on,” she said. “It’s like I have a revolving door right now. As I get one back, another one goes down.”
The Ghostriders’ line up hasn’t been fully healthy since pre season games, with some key players having to sit out due to injuries. Neufled said that she works closely with head coach Craig Mohr to ensure that the players are getting the rest they need while still having a strong line up to compete with.
“Craig is really supportive. If I say somebody is out, he doesn’t question it. We try to kind of work hand in hand getting the line up all sorted and I understand his stress, with goaltending and having key guys being out but try to keep him as up to date as possible and open the lines of communication.”
“That’s my ultimate goal is to get everybody healthy. We are slowly getting there, slowly,” she said. “With the injuries, they have done really well, in my opinion. The third and fourth lines are stepping up to fill those gaps and everybody just seems to step in and fill the voids when needed and know what is expected of them.”
Neufeld credits Heather Lewis, owner of Fernie Athletic Therapy, and chiroprator Jill Snell for their help in keeping the team as healthy as possible. “I feel like for sure, this year, we are the glue that is holding everybody together,” she said.
Coach Craig Mohr agreed. “They may be the hardest working people on our staff right now – normally Kayla is. It’s unbelievable the amount of time and work they put in to not only keep these guys healthy, to get them back when they are injured,” he said. “She’s fabulous and the whole medical group of them are unbelievable. There is lot of teams that don’t have anyone or they are always struggling to find some one, and rarely have anyone on the road.”