Chuck Garlow always dreamed of playing hockey in the National Hockey League. That was until an automobile accident cut short his hockey-playing career.
But it didn’t derail his dream from coming true. As a massage therapist for the Buffalo Sabres, Garlow will be the first person to tell you that he is lucky to have the job that he has today.
“There are only 30 jobs like this in the world because there are only 30 teams in the National Hockey League, and I’m very fortunate to have one of those 30 jobs,” said Garlow, a native of Ransomville, N.Y., and a 1989 graduate of Wilson Central High School.
“For me, it is the one way to be in the NHL. I never fulfilled my dream of playing in the NHL, which a lot of kids have when they’re growing up.
“So if I couldn’t make it as a player, being here as a massage therapist means I’m as close to the action as anyone on the team. The only thing missing for me is lacing up a pair of skates and being on the ice.”
It took some time for Garlow to recover from his accident following his senior year of high school, both mentally and physically. As his injuries began to heal, he was faced with some tough decisions about the rest of his life.
“Fate stepped in, which ended any thoughts of playing hockey in college,” said Garlow. “I had played from the time I was a little kid until I graduated from high school. After the accident, though, I knew I couldn’t play at the level I had before the accident.”
So it was on to Plan B. After graduating from the State University College of New York at Fredonia, Garlow spent five seasons as a massage therapist with the Buffalo Blizzard indoor soccer team. As luck would have it, the Sabres shared the same facility, which allowed Garlow to stay close to the game he loved.
“I would help the Sabres out any time I could by doing odd jobs around the team,” recalled Garlow. “I just kept it up until a job opened up with the Sabres. They didn’t have to ask me twice when they offered me the job.”
In his six seasons with the Sabres, Garlow has made the most of his opportunity, despite his hectic schedule.
There are only 30 jobs like this in the world ... and I’m very fortunate to have one of those 30 jobs.
During the Sabres’ regular season schedule he is with the team both at home and on the road. He is also at all of the team’s practices, both at home and on the road. It all makes for quite a busy schedule.
“The hours can be long, especially when you are on the road and traveling from city to city,” he said. “You can be going from early morning until late at night.”
As part of the training staff, Garlow revels in his role, working as part of a team environment where he does what he can to keep Sabres’ players on the ice and in peak physical condition.
“The biggest proponent for an athlete is time for recovery. Massage is something that helps speed up that time for recovery,” said Garlow, who earned his New York State license from the New York Institute of Massage. “
“No matter if it is from an injury or fatigue, you are trying to maintain the level of performance that the player needs to have for every game they play in. They are using their bodies and the muscles in their bodies every day. So they have to be in top shape.”
Working closely with Sabres’ trainer Tim Cacre and team doctors, Garlow makes it his job to know about every ache and pain a player may have and be able to relay that information to the Sabres’ coaching staff.
On game nights, Garlow keeps a close eye on the ice, keeping a mental note of every crushing check in the corner and collision at center ice. And in case Cacre is taking care of an injured player, Garlow has to be ready to help out.
“That is the only time that I get the chance to be on the ice with the players,” he said. “For those few moments I’m on the ice, when I get the chance to think about it, it is still quite a thrill for me to be there.”
Amazingly, even with everything Garlow has going with the Sabres, he has his own private practice in Lewiston, which is a short drive from the rink.
“During the Sabres’ season I will try and squeeze in as many patients as I can. During hockey’s offseason I can work a more normal schedule,” said Garlow.
“With it all, it makes it a very active and exciting life for me. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Photos - Janet Schultz, Getty Images