He’s the last person the fans want to see hop over the boards when the whistle blows. He’s the first person the player laying on the ice wants by his side. For Kansas City Mavericks Head Athletic Trainer, Nick Potter, it’s a responsibility, a lifestyle, a passion, and a job; and it’s one he is incredibly good at. Earlier this offseason, Potter was named ECHL Athletic Trainer of the Year, as voted on by his peers in the league. Following the high profile rehabilitation of Mavericks captain, Rocco Carzo, from a devastating knee injury, it’s an award that was well deserved.
But, it’s the day in and day out operations behind the scenes for Potter that keep the Mavericks players on the ice and playing at the high level the Orange Army has come to expect. Whether it’s modifying equipment to avoid irritation of a nagging injury or finding just the right treatment to for the daily aches and pains associated with playing hockey, Potter is at the top of his game and his profession.
Growing up in Michigan, Potter comes from a hockey background. Head injuries didn’t allow the young left winger to continue to pursue his playing dreams, but he knew sports medicine was the profession he wanted to be in. After enrolling at Western Michigan in the athletic training program with hopes to work with a Division I hockey program, Potter obtained a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training degree. Following his undergraduate studies, Potter worked for the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs before going back to school at Texas Tech to further his education. Following that, he came back to Kansas City and was a full-time athletic trainer with the Chiefs. Some high profile injury rehabs of superstars like Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, and Dontari Poe, with the Chiefs training staff gave Potter the hands-on experience necessary to be highly successful in his field before he found his way back to hockey with the Mavericks.
Since coming to the Mavericks, Potter’s most documented work was done two seasons ago after Rocco Carzo went down with an ACL tear in a game in Wichita. The two worked side by side over the next year to get the Mavs captain back on the ice.
“First off, Rocco is an unbelievable friend. I’ve worked closely with him for three and a half years. We argue about football, we argue about everything else. I’m the better fantasy football player; he falls in love with the birds (Eagles) and doesn’t know how to step away from them,” Potter said with a chuckle. “With Rocco, the process is easy. If you put a template out there and explain why we’re going to do something, Rocco is all in. Early on in the rehab process, I had to rein Rocco in to make sure we were following protocol so when we get to the phase were we could take the leash off of him, we weren’t going to have any setbacks with the knee. In the rehab process, you want to make sure you don’t lose the competitive edge. They miss being with their teammates in the locker room and on the ice. So, during those down times, we made games out of our rehab. We made short term goals to make sure that he felt like he was keeping up with the team. He’s such a great teammate; when a guy has the desire and the heart like Rocco, it makes my job easier.”
Using some new scientific breakthroughs with blood flow restriction, Carzo returned to the ice stronger than ever for the 2018-19 season, including the first goal of the season.
“Rocco says I never smile on the bench. He didn’t see it because his smile was so big, but I had a little smirk on my face when he did that,” Potter said with a smile. “That was a pretty cool moment and I would definitely say the top moment in my athletic training career.”
It was such a special moment for Potter, that he asked then Mavericks Director of Communication Brandon Weiss for pictures of Carzo and forward Justin Breton, who had also gone through a lengthy rehabilitation process, scoring on that night to congratulate them on their hard work on Twitter. He also had the two players sign copies of the pictures for their surgeon to bring the injury recovery full circle.
“He goes above and beyond what his job entails or what is expected of him. He’s the reason I came back from my injury so strong and better than before,” Carzo said. “He was there with me, side by side, every single day for seven months. On the track running, or in the pool swimming, right there next to me, pushing me and motivating me. Aside from the rink, he cares deeply about every individual in that room from a personal standpoint. He’s a one of a kind athletic trainer and an even better person.”
Following the 2018-19 season, Potter was named ECHL Athletic Trainer of the Year. An award that he was given after a vote of his peers in the athletic training field, Potter was both honored to receive the award and humbled by the thought that his peers think so highly of his work with the Mavericks organization.
“Very humbling… I pride myself on being a behind the scenes guy with our players, have fun with them, work hard, and try to keep them on the ice as much as possible. To get voted by your peers is very humbling because there are a lot of great athletic trainers in the ECHL that deserve promotions and accolades from their players and their staffs. It was a pretty proud moment for me and where my professional career has taken me. I’m still going to say I was just doing my job. To be rewarded, I’m honored and very humbled. I hope I can keep doing my job and they’ll keep letting me do my job because I do love working with high caliber athletes. The Mavericks organization has been unreal. I really couldn’t have done it without the support of management, ownership, and the support of the players. I think it’s important that you don’t only care for them when they’re hurt, but you’re there for them when they have their success. That way you can be there for them when they’re at their lowest moment during an injury. To be able to do your job and love what you do, I think that’s what is most important; and I think that’s what showed most and I’m most proud of.”
That pride in his work, his work ethic, his passion, his compassion, and his love of this game is what has endeared Potter to so many Mavericks players and staff over the past few seasons.
“Pottsy always had a smile on his face, no matter what, every time you walked into his office! I always loved having a “Topic of the Day” on his whiteboard. Guys would do anything for Pottsy. He takes his job very seriously and professionally!” -Former Mavericks forward Dane Fox
“Pottsy meant the world to the guys and I. Whether he was just keeping the overall mood up in the room with a good “whiteboard” poll or spending hours with guys rehabbing, he enjoyed every second of it. Without Pottsy, many guys would have missed more games than needed. He went above and beyond doing his job.” -Former Mavericks Captain Tyler Elbrecht
“He’s as professional as they come. He’s also like having another buddy around. You can talk to him about anything; just a really good guy to have in the room.” -Mavericks defenseman Neal Goff
“Pottsy is great in the room! So happy for him to earn the accolade! He does so much for the team above and beyond athletic therapy or time in the weight room with the guys; which he does an already amazing job with. He keeps it light in the room and is always a guy you can talk to. Above all else, he is an amazing individual, which makes him a pleasure to be around and a positive influence on the team.” -Mavericks forward Loren Ulett
“Having someone with as much experience and as professional as Nick has been key for the Mavericks. He brought a lot of knowledge with him coming from the Chiefs. He has had a huge impact, not just in the Mavericks locker room, but on the way the league handles medical needs now, as well. He is one of my closest friends. We were friends before he made the move to hockey, but our years working together made us even more so. I am so happy to see him receiving the acknowledgement that he deserves; especially coming from his peers. He never stops trying to be the best at what he does and I think that is what makes him so good at his job.” -Former Mavericks and current Stanley Cup Champion Equipment Manager Andrew Dvorak of the St. Louis Blues
“First class guy who always knew how to keep the players in the right mindset to perform at the best of their abilities; a joy to be around.” -Former Mavericks defenseman Bryce Aneloski
“Nick is a first class individual and a pro in every sense of the word. Working with him was a blast as he always had the ability to lighten things up when needed. His consistency in his approach and the care he has for his players are what separates him from others in his field. Always looking to improve, Nick will continue to be up for the award year after year.” –Former Mavericks player and coaching staff member Simon Watson
“I knew Nick when he worked for the Chiefs; getting a trainer of his capabilities and professional resume was huge for the Mavericks family. As a player, you knew that you were in great hands. In the latter part of my career I went through some big injuries that required extensive rehab. From start to finish, Nick was by my side each and everyday. With his hard work and expertise, I was able to get back quicker and stronger. He gave me the opportunity to finish my career on a high note.” –Former Mavericks captain Andrew Courtney
“Nick Potter is a pro’s pro and I was thrilled when I heard he’d won Athletic Trainer of the Year. The respect shown to him by the players in the room is undeniable and he deserves every ounce of it. He’s someone who goes the extra mile for each and every athlete, going as far as doing workouts with them because he ‘wouldn’t ask them to do anything he won’t do.’ He’s someone who takes great pride in providing first-class care to every player who dons a Mavericks sweater and invests at an incredibly high level in each one of them. He’s a friendly face in the room, always good for a laugh and eager to help. He’s the picture of what every team should want in an athletic trainer.” -Former Mavericks Director of Communication and current Stockton Heat Director of Communication Brandon Weiss
“Pottsy is the best in the ECHL for a reason; he took care of us just like the team. Every official knew him and knew they could trust him and were in good hands if something happened on the ice.” –Former ECHL official Jared Reid
“He always took care of everything we needed and more; always putting in so many hours just to make sure every single player felt great pre-game, post-game and before and after each practice. That man did endless work for us and was so incredible.” –Former Mavericks forward John Schiavo
The words of adoration flow effortlessly from each of these players, coaches, officials, and colleagues. Each statement a tribute to a young man that is at the top of his field and has the full confidence of everyone he works with. And while Pottsy prefers to work in the shadows and deflect all attention away from himself, it is comforting for Kansas City Mavericks fans, coaches, and players to know that they have the absolute best standing on their bench at the ready.