Cougars Equipment Manager Reaches 600-Game Milestone
Prince George, B.C. – To at least one of his co-workers he’s the unsung hero of the Prince George Cougars and he’s just hit a major milestone.
Equipment manager Ramandeep (Chico) Dhanjal hit the 600-game mark in the Western Hockey League in his position this week when the Cats hosted the Regina Pats.
Dhanjal’s history with the franchise goes back to the 2008/2009 season when he was hired as athletic trainer.
A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, the province he grew up in, he earned a degree in kinesiology and psychology and started his career with the Humboldt Broncos and was there when they won two league championships.
He’s also held the position of equipment manager for the Woman’s U18 and U22 National teams and twice represented Team WHL at the Canada Russia Series.
So, how does Dhanjal feel about reaching 600-games in the WHL?
“You know it’s shocking that it’s been with just one team. It’s great because the community has really grown on me and I love this place. My family loves it here, we’ve settled down and we’ve got some roots here.”
His job has evolved over the years since he was hired as the team’s athletic trainer. Prior to the New Ice Age and the new ownership group that came with it, he tripled as not just athletic trainer, but also equipment manager and strength conditioning coach.
That’s not to say he isn’t busy in his current role as equipment manager. So, what does the job entail?
“Basically, I take care of all of their equipment. Anything to do with their equipment from sticks, skates, helmets. I book ice, I make sure the dressing room is all set up and nice and neat. Basically, whatever the coach wants the players to do, I make sure it happens. I also help with road trips – planning wise – I’ve got my hand in everything.”
Cougars head coach Richard Matvichuk says Dhanjal’s dedication is much appreciated.
“He’s kind of like my right-hand man. He’s always there when I need him, our players too. It’s nice to have a guy like that who’s willing to work that hard because it makes not just my job, but the organization’s job a lot easier.”
And if there’s one person with the Cougars who knows Dhanjal better than anyone else, it’s play-by-play man Dan O’Connor. In fact, the pair are roommates on team road trips.
O’Connor says he was an essential source of encouragement and support for him when he first joined the club six seasons ago.
“Chico was a guy who probably more than anybody else, taught me what life as a Prince George Cougar was like. What the expectations were on the road, giving me advice on the road,” he says.
“How to interact with players, how to interact with the coaching staff, tips about dealing with management. He really gave me that pep talk, that confidence talk my first year when things weren’t going well saying ‘hey man, it’s a tough season, but things are going to get better.’”
Dhanjal, who has a wife and two young daughters, says the toughest part of his job is being away from his family during the hockey season.
“It’s very tough and I’m very happy that I have a very supportive wife, who’s super strong with the kids and making sure that they’re taken care of and if it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would still be here with 600-games underneath me.”
In all, O’Connor doesn’t know what the team would do without him.
“I think he’s the unsung hero of the Prince George Cougars. He’s in a class of his own and I can honestly say that in 11 years of hockey I haven’t come across an individual quite like him.”
And Cougars ownership must agree with O’Connor’s assessment as just hours after this interview took place, the team signed Dhanjal to a three-year contract extension.