POSTED ON JUNE 2, 2010:
High and Enlow
With years of experience under his belt, equipment trainer sticks to the teams -- and city -- he loves
"I'm surprised that Steve is not in the major leagues somewhere, be it football or hockey," said Tulsa Oilers General Manager Taylor Hall.
Ninety-nine out of 100 times this space is dedicated to the athletes. Today, we are talking about Steve Enlow, the equipment trainer for both the Oilers and Tulsa Talons.
"To be honest, I consider him along the same lines as one of my coaching staff," said Talons Head Coach Mitch Allner. "Without him around, things wouldn't be the same. He's a big part of the Talons and always has been."
Native Tulsan Enlow started skating early in life. His parents owned Skateland, 1150 S. Sheridan Road. They took him to a few hockey games, and he was hooked.
"I had season tickets around the penalty box," Enlow said. Back then, the Oilers were affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the penalty area was one big box with no glass shielding it.
After a fight, opposing players sat in the close quarters with a police officer separating them. "That was the best seat in the house because a lot of times they would get into a fight in the penalty box," he said with a laugh.
He developed a rapport with the police officers and penalty box workers. Those relationships evolved into him helping out during games and eventually getting into the locker room mingling with players and coaches. In 1970, the organization called him and asked if he would be interested in a job. The 13-year-old hockey fanatic was eager to accept.
Throughout the years, Steve has held many jobs. Aside from his work with the Talons and Oilers, he also worked for Tulsa's professional soccer franchise, the Tulsa Roughnecks in the late '70s.
He enjoyed a year in the NHL with the Colorado Rockies (now the New Jersey Devils) during the '78-79 season. He returned to Tulsa the following year to help run Skateland, while his father battled an illness.
When the Central Hockey League folded in 1984, he tried his hand at racing. "They had a race car show out at one of the malls," Enlow said. "There were these cars called Micro Midgets back then. They were half scale of the sprint car with a motorcycle engine. I said, 'Man I'd love to do that,' so I bought one of those. I started racing."
By the summer of '86, he upgraded to a full midget car and raced in the USAC (United States Auto Club). Enlow captured the 1986 Rookie of the Year Award from USAC. For comparison purposes, Jeff Gordon won the same award three years later.
By the time the CHL reemerged in 1992, Enlow was tiring of the full-time job that racing had become. The fun faded. Changing valve springs and baby-sitting motors proved to be tedious and costly.
In '92, he assisted the Oilers. The '93-94 season saw him work the equipment room for the Dallas Freeze of the CHL. He then re-relocated to Tulsa in '94 and has been with the team ever since.
Six years later, Oilers Owner Jeff Lund advised Enlow he was diving into the Arena Football 2 League. He basically told him to learn the ropes because he was going to be the equipment trainer for the Talons commencing with the 2000 season.
"I called the equipment guy at TU. I called the guy at Arkansas. I talked to them and tried to get the ends and outs of what football involved. Everybody told me, 'you don't know what you're getting yourself into,'" he said with a laugh.
On the Job
Enlow is 53-years-old. He is still a master of his craft. He continues to work year-round sans a couple of weeks in the early part of September. The end of the CHL season and the start of the AFL season overlap by a few weeks, but he's a busy, dedicated employee.
"I never have to worry," Allner said. "There is never a point where I worry about something I know that he is supposed to take care of. It always gets done. That's a very vital and important part of what we do."
Hall agrees. "I have had some wonderful experiences with some great trainers over my years in hockey. I have to say, Steve is every bit as good as anybody I ever had in the National Hockey League."
Check out his job requirements. First up, the Talons.
He orders all of the equipment and makes sure it is in proper working order. Jerseys, pants, socks, T-shirts, shorts, shoes, balls, you name it. He ensures everything is where it should be when it should be there.
"I do all the practice scheduling with the building for us and normally the visiting team too, I have to have that all set up," he said. Equipment repairs add to his chores.
And for hockey?
"It is basically the same thing, but I do have more duties. In football, Coach Allner takes care of most of the travel and hotels. In hockey, that is my responsibility. I do the hotel reservations and booking of the buses. I set up practices on the road and at the practice rink or the BOK," he said.
Two of his main focuses during hockey season are sticks and skates. Sharpening player's skates is a never-ending task. Ensuring each player has the optimal stick is crucial, too.
Things to Know
Due to space constraints, here are some rapid fire tidbits too good to leave out.
Enlow stays knee-deep in dirty laundry. At the old Convention Center, he used three household washer and dryers. At the BOK Center, he uses two commercial grade washer and dryers. Another unheralded upgrade to downtown.
The average AFL game uses approximately 150 towels, while the typical hockey game uses 120 each night. Do the math and figure out home many loads were required at the Convention Center. "Sam's loves me," he laughed in reference to the amount of detergent he purchases in bulk.
During his three-week "offseason," he enjoys taking cruises with his wife Sheila. "I'm not gone as much during the summer with football. During hockey season, it's very stressful on her because I am gone for so long on so many trips.
"She is a trooper. She is there for me. If I need help, if I'm getting swamped, if there is anything she can do, she'll go down at nights with me and help me."
Football season offers bye weeks. He'll try to sneak away for a few days with Sheila and their 13-year-old daughter Morgan.
Home teams take care of road teams needs. This includes laundry service among other duties. The CHL is especially tricky because a team could play in Wichita one night and Tulsa the next.
When the visitors arrive at 2am, they dump laundry in the middle of the locker room. Enlow retrieves and washes for them. Of course, the service is returned when the Oilers are on the road.
He worked a couple of NHL exhibition games at the Ford Center. It reaffirmed his decision to stick with the minor leagues as opposed to taking one of his many offers to return to the big leagues.
"The guys at this level are more down-to-earth. They are not prima donnas. It's more enjoyable for me to work with the guys at this level than up there."
Enlow was the first recipient of the CHL's Gunner Garrett Equipment Manager of the Year award in 2005-06.
He worked the 2003 and 2010 CHL All-Star games.
And Tulsa is lucky to have him.
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