Throughout the years, the Johnstown Tomahawks have had hard working hockey players on the ice. Whether they have scored a game-winning goal or made that sprawling pad save at the last second, the Tomahawks have always had someone who steps up and does more than his share.
However, this distinction is limited to actions on the ice. The Tomahawks have someone behind the scenes that has played a crucial role in the Tomahawks on and off ice success.
Equipment manager Dave Dunkleberger has been a constant in the Tomahawks organization for well over 100 games. Known as “Dunks,” he has sharpened skates, fixed equipment and provided the Tomahawks with passion and commitment to his job.
Dunkleberger will represent the Tomahawks, along with seven players, at the 2016 North American Hockey League Top Prospects Tournament.
The tournament is held at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., from Feb. 15-16.
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work with some of the top players in our league,” Dunkleberger said. “This is something I’ve hoped to do all season.”
He will work with one or two other equipment managers from other NAHL teams for thw two-day event.
“We will have the task of working with five teams (100 players) during the event,” Dunkleberger said. “Our jobs will be the same during a normal game day except we’ll be working three games each day while looking after 100 players instead of the normal one game and 20 players.”
Dunkleberger got his start at the age of 15 when he worked for the Johnstown Chiefs, a position, he said, that helped him choose his career.
“The longer I worked and the more connections I made there, it led me to realize this is the path I wanted to go down,” said Dunkleberger.
His path to the NAHL’s “All-Star Game” mirrors that of his role model, Pittsburgh Penguins head equipment manager Dana Heinze.
Heinze, a Johnstown native and an instrumental figure in Johnstown hockey, was selected to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, which was played on Sunday, Jan. 31.
“Dana is one of the best equipment managers in the business and has been a great role model for me, especially with us both being from Johnstown,” Dunkleberger said.
Dunkleberger said he keeps in contact and Heinze is always available to help him out or give him advice. Additionally, he has worked with Heinze on several occasions, including the Hockeyville game between the aforementioned Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sept. 29, 2015.
“Working with Dana and Mic Midderoff (former Johnstown Chiefs equipment manager), where we all started our careers was an unreal feeling,” Dunkleberger said.
The distinction of being selected for the Top Prospect tournament is much deserved, according to Tomahawks head coach Mike Letizia.
“There is nobody that I have seen that puts more passion, time and effort into doing that line of work,” Letizia said. “He is committed to going above and beyond for our players, opposing teams and officials.”
Letizia added that he feels Dunkleberger is heading on a path similar to Heinze’s.
“I strongly feel that Dunk is heading in a similar path as Dana,” Letizia said. “Both are from Johnstown and both started here. We are all extremely lucky to have someone like Dunk working for us and doing the job that he does.”
Dunkleberger will be giving Tomahawks fans a “behind the scenes” look at the Top Prospects Tournament. Fans are encouraged to give him a follow on Twitter @ddunks1 or tune into the Tomahawks Facebook and Twitter accounts for up-to-date news from the tournament.