MINNEAPOLIS - New Ulm's Kate Anderson grew up watching hockey and played the sport while in high school and college.
But never in her wildest dreams did she ever think she'd be getting paid to be around the sport she loves so much.
Anderson, who graduated from New Ulm High School in 1999, is the equipment manager for the University of Minnesota women's hockey team and the men's and women's tennis teams. This past month, she got the opportunity of a lifetime - a chance to work with the U.S. National Women's Hockey Team at the Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, New York. She's hoping that experience will lead to more chances to work with national teams in the future.
Kate Anderson was the equipment manager for the U.S. National Women’s Hockey Team at the Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, New York.
"U.S.A Hockey called me last spring, and they ended up asking if I wanted to work at any of the camps or any of the tournaments, and I said 'sure,'" she said.
From there, she went out to Lake Placid for a couple of weeks and worked at a camp with the Ohio State equipment manager where she worked with a Canadian team.
Then, on November 2, she left for the Four Nations Cup, and she worked with the U.S. National women's team. Anderson said that the National team is made up of mostly college players and players who have competed in the Olympics before, so it's an elite team that was very exciting to watch.
"It's fun," she said. "The International level is a jump up from college. It kind of surprised me how much better they are. But it was neat to see even the Canadian team, because they've had players around.
"It's fun, because I learned a lot," Anderson said. "Those kids are a lot more intense than the collegiate kids are on the bench and stuff."
The U.S. squad went 3-1 at the tournament and faced teams from Canada, Finland and Sweden. Based on their record, they qualified for the championship match where the Red, White and Blue brought home the championship, winning in the sixth round of a shootout over Canada.
With all of the excitement that surrounded the tournament, the international competition is something Anderson wants to be a part of again.
"Absolutely," she said. "They will be naming the coaching staff I think in January, and I think it'll trickle down from there who goes to worlds. The championships are in April in Finland, and it's a very small pool. I have a good chance, hopefully."
When she's not busy working with the national team, Anderson is in charge of many of the behind-the-scenes things for the Gopher teams that she works with.
"Basically, everything that you see the athletes wearing, I got for them," she said. "I do all the ordering of the equipment and apparel. With hockey, I travel with them and just take care of anything they need."
And anything they need can vary from game to game or day to day. She frequently has to sharpen skates, paying special detail to each player's specific needs. She got involved with being an equipment manager after graduating from the University of Concordia in Moorhead and moving to metro area, where she took a job at a local hockey specialty store.
After working at the store for a few years, she got involved with the University's hockey program after a player on the team that she knew recommended that she do some part-time work with the Gopher women's team.
"When I finished college, I moved down to the cities and was looking for a job and I ended up at Hockey Giant - it was a retail shop that just opened," she said. "I worked there for three years and my last year there, and I knew one of the Gopher hockey players. The current equipment manager, she was sick and she couldn't work all the time. So they needed someone to sharpen skates part-time one night a week and to do the games during the weekend."
What started as a part-time gig eventually became full-time for Anderson about a year.
On game days, she begins her work with the Gopher team at about 2:30 p.m., primarily sharpening skates. She then has to have all of the lockers set up with jerseys, socks and tape ready to go for the players.
She then gets the visitors' locker room set up and the referee's locker room set up. She then brings equipment out to the teams' benches, like pucks, sticks, etc.
When she's not getting ready for game day, she's doing book work for the program.
"It's more administrative, I have to go through all the bills and submit those," Anderson said. "I have to do budgeting and ordering, and if the team needs something, like tennis will call me if they need a case of tennis balls and that kind of stuff."
A History and Exercise Science major in college, Anderson had no idea that she'd be spending so much time around the rinks.
"It's more of the pieces falling into place," she said. "If you had told me 10 years ago that this is what I'd be doing, I'd would've said you were crazy. It ended up working out well. I started playing my sophomore year, which was the first year of the program in New Ulm, and played in college, and that's kind of where I got into the equipment side."
In college, she took her first steps towards becoming an equipment manager while working at an ice rink.
"I worked at the rink [in college] and that's where the skates would get sharpened," she said. "Our coach would just have the staff do it, and it was poor quality control, so [my coach] volunteered me for it. So I ended up doing it all four years there."
As far as tennis goes, she does a lot of work with the gear they wear and helps them get ready for trips.
"With them, I do the ordering. I get them all their apparel, all their shoes, and just issue it, and I'll pack their stuff if they're going on a trip for the week," she said.
While she may not have a degree directly involved with her major, she is really happy with the way her career path has took her so far.
"I love it," she said. "It's not something growing up that I really thought I'd be doing, even in college with my degree. It's just something I kind of stumbled into. I love the sport, I've loved it since I played it in high school, it's just been a great experience, it really has."
Jeremy Behnke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org