Tim Adams has never ventured into what he calls the “real world.” In his 18th season with the Ohio State men’s hockey team, the equipment manager has never seen the necessity.
The man with a degree in natural resources has made his career within the confines of ice rinks, handling hockey equipment for the Buckeyes.
Adams’ career path began at the OSU Ice Rink where he was a student employee under longtime manager Duke Johnson. Shortly after graduation, Adams received an offer he wasn’t expecting: become OSU’s equipment manager for the second half of the 1997-98 season.
“I thought, ‘Hey, this will be a fun thing to do for a few years, then I’ll get out in the real world and get a real job,” Adams said. “Eighteen years later, here I am.”
The job presented itself when the Buckeyes’ former equipment manager left the team mid-season to dress for the now-defunct Columbus Chill, OSU’s then-coach John Markell said.
On New Year’s Eve of 1997, Markell, shorthanded, asked Johnson to serve as temporary equipment manager during a road series against Michigan. Shortly after, Markell requested an equipment manager for the rest of the season. Johnson recommended Adams for the position.
“He was here the longest, had the most experience and he liked hockey,” Johnson said of Adams. “He probably had as much hockey experience as any of the kids working here.”
Adams learned basic skate sharpening and skate repair skills during his time at the OSU Ice Rink, but had to familiarize himself with some of the job’s non-technical requirements such as operating a budget and ordering custom equipment, he said.
The learning curve brought valuable lessons. After packing heavy for the first couple road trips, Adams gradually realized what he needed to take with the team and what he could leave in Columbus, he said.
Fellow equipment managers from opposing teams guided his development, Adams said.
“The equipment guys are kind of a fraternity in their own right,” Adams said. “We aren’t winning or losing the games for our teams.”
For the Buckeyes, winning wasn’t a problem once Adams joined the team. After going 9-10-1 through New Year’s weekend, the Buckeyes went 18-3-1 for the remainder of the regular season.
The second-half surge was enough to boost OSU in its only Frozen Four appearance in school history.
After the season, Markell switched the equipment manager’s position from part-time to full-time, he said. Adams was offered to continue with the team.
“There was no thought of ever having (Adams) replaced and I was very happy that he wanted to take it on full-time,” Markell said. “I think he was excited about the direction of the program.”
Markell, who was replaced in 2010 and now coaches two Ohio AAA Blue Jackets girls hockey teams, said Adams’ success was a result of his organization and passion for the game.
OSU coach Steve Rohlik, who replaced former Buckeye coach Mark Osiecki in 2013, is the third coach with whom Adams has worked. He echoed Markell’s thoughts.
“He’ll die for this program, he’s passionate for this program, he’ll do what it takes,” Rohlik said. “That’s just the person he is.”
Despite the turnover of coaches, Adams maintains his daily structure.
During the week, Adams is at the rink by 8 a.m. and out at about 4:30 p.m. His shift is extended on gamedays.
He pulls double-duty for home games, as he’s responsible for handling the visiting team’s laundry as well as OSU’s. The process can delay his departure until 12:30 a.m. on Fridays and 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Adams made $60,524 in 2013 — $14,180 was overtime pay.
The players he accommodates are appreciative of his work.
“He’s always been great,” senior forward Matt Johnson said. “Whenever you need something, he’s always got it for you.”
As the longest-tenured member of the Buckeyes , Adams has done his best to meet the needs of the players, a task sometimes complicated by unusual requests.
“It’s always to do with skates,” Adams said. “When you get that weird stuff to do with players, it’s always to do with skates.”
Adams meets the needs of his team without making personal judgments, he said. In-game requests to change a skate’s cut are met with nods, not inquiries.
An hour after a midweek practice, it was a request for new shorts that took Adams’ attention.
Prior to the request, Adams’ phone had buzzed three times. For a man who works outside the “real world,” his job seems quite demanding.