(Article written by Jamie Neugebauer)
There is no surer sign that the players on a given team love and appreciate their trainer than when they are constantly given a hard time.
And the Humboldt Broncos players love to give Tyrol ‘Skip’ Deeg, their long-time equipment manager and trainer, an occasional ribbing.
“He’s a fun guy to be around and it’s pretty easy to come to him and get under his skin once a while,” says Broncos’ captain and veteran forward Cage Newans.
“He doesn’t watch any football at home, he only watches football at the rink on his TV when he has a little bit of downtime. He just pauses and records each game, so anytime you say anything about football he plugs his ears, he doesn’t want to spoil it. So, it’s pretty funny: at the rink, we’ll be like, ‘Oh Skip, Tom Brady’s back. He came out of retirement!’ (which is untrue) So you know, just crazy stuff, but it’s pretty funny because he’s such a big football fan. But seriously though, he’s just a great dude to joke around with and if you ever need anyone to talk to also just on a personal level, he’s great for it.”
As much as the Broncos players like to have fun with Skip, their respect for his ability and work is unquestioned.
The Wynyard, SK native has been a trainer all around Canada for 18 years now, spread between the last five seasons in Humboldt, as well as time in Nipawin, Dauphin, Manitoba, and in Salmon Arm and Vernon in the British Columbia Hockey League.
His path to the SJHL was an interesting one. His Bachelor’s degree in sports administration at the University of Regina took him to a multi-faceted internship with the Nipawin Hawks, where he worked on the marketing and gameday operations side, as well as with the team athletic therapist. The job was offered to him that same year when that trainer moved on to the Regina Pats, and he’s been in the field ever since.
The Dec. 9 clash at the Elgar Petersen Arena with the Melville Millionaires in town was his 1,229th game as a trainer. Still, despite all of those games, the fact that the job provides such a rich variety of situations requiring his attention is one of the main draws to keep him in it.
“The one thing with this job is that no day is ever the same,” he says.
“You never know what a player is going to need. You never know what is going to break on their equipment, what injury or any other thing that could go wrong on a day-to-day basis. There’s never a boring day, because the players always need something. That’s one thing that I love about the job. You know, you get to watch hockey for free and you get paid to be there, so I think that’s pretty cool too. I never really intended to be a trainer or an equipment manager, but I kind of fell into it. It was a way to be in hockey and I know I want to be in hockey.”
Of all the spots Skip has worked, there is absolutely something special to him about working for the Broncos. His hometown is just an hour or so southeast of Humboldt, so when the job came open after the tragic accident of April 6, 2018, the notion of putting his name in the ring to help put the club put the pieces back together came rapidly.
He was with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL at the time, whose season had already ended.
“I kind of had my eye on that job (right away after the accident),” he says.
“I kind of thought they needed someone with experience here to be the trainer, and I kind of watched waiting for them to put out that they were looking for one. I sent my (application in when I could) and got the call almost immediately to see if I could come into town (from BC) to meet with them. My wife and I drove through the night, stayed at my parent’s place, and met with Broncos the next morning and they offered me the job in the office.”
Given the emotional weight of the gig, mixed with the immense amount of work to be done late in the summer of 2018, Deeg and his wife Rebecca went back home to take the appropriate time to decide.
Ultimately though, they were eager to jump on board, though the gravity of the situation was far from lost on Deeg.
“I remember coming in the training room and there were papers that Dana (Brons, the trainer who tragically passed in the accident) had filled out,” he says.
“There was her writing on the on the white and stuff like that. There were little things like that that would happen every single day for the first little bit, that would hit me and I had to go and sit in the stands for 15 minutes, and just take a break. There was a lot of that.”
Through the many ups and downs the Broncos have had since those difficult times, Skip has been there demonstrating his competence time and again.
His effort and his passion for his job and his club are not lost on the likes of Newans, a veteran of the Western Hockey League, and all the Broncos players.
“Skip is such a ‘jack of all trades’,” Newans says.
“His work ethic is pretty incredible. There are those nights where we don’t get back to the rink from a road trip, you know, two or three in the morning and he’s there till five or six am. He’s getting everything put away, getting laundry done, getting stuff ready for the next day. A lot of the time the stuff he does doesn’t get noticed because he’s at the rink in those hours with nobody there. Everyone’s at home sleeping and he’s still there putting the work in. So, it’s very impressive. It’s incredible how hard he works, really.”
Skip is quick to credit the exceptional, professional relationship he has with the Broncos’ head coach and general manager Scott Barney, and the generally outstanding treatment he has received from the Humboldt community for his longevity with the club.
While he has worked on numerous championship teams, especially in Nipawin and on two Dauphin Kings MJHL clubs that have reached the national championship, he never lets a day go by where he forgets that it’s a great day to be a Bronco.
“For the community, the size of Humboldt to have a Junior A team with the tradition and the championships and the history that we have,” he says, “I mean, it is pretty special to be a part of it.
“As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate being able to make my living doing what I’m doing because there’s only how many of us who get to the junior A level and I’m very appreciative to be at this level my entire career.
“To be the trainer for the Humble Broncos, I mean, it’s a pretty special thing that is not lost on me at all.”