Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Meet Acacio Marques

Sometimes, people notice the smallest details. Whether it be a painting, a street sign, or a T-shirt, the smallest of details can be seen by someone with a trained eye. Imagine what that must be like for an equipment manager for a professional sports team. Popular players are worn on jerseys, and if that player makes the most minute change, people notice. And if something is missing from a jersey, people definitely notice. That's where New York Rangers' equipment manager Acacio Marques comes in. He's the guy responsible for all the on-ice equipment and jerseys that the players use.

He recently gave an interview on the New York Rangers' website.

"QUESTION: What is the process for assigning a uniform number, and how much input does the player have?

MARQUES: The player has a lot of input depending on his seniority. A lot of it has to do with numbers that we have available. We had Pascal Dupuis, who came in and wanted No. 11, but that number is retired, so he obviously couldn't have No. 11. His next choice was 16, but Sean Avery had just gotten that number. So he chose 61, because it was basically the same numbers as 16, just reversed. Guys will kind of play with numbers. Same thing with Marty Straka. He was always 28, but on one team that he went to, 28 wasn't available. So he chose 82, and it kind of stuck. As far as younger players that come in from Hartford or at training camp, we tend to put them in higher numbers because we leave the lower numbers available for a veteran that might sign in September or whatever. There are certain numbers that are given to certain positions. Usually 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are defensemen's numbers, and 35 and 1 are goalie numbers. But since 1 and 35 are retired here, we've had to change it up a little bit. Obviously, Hank (Henrik Lundqvist) is in 30, but (Stephen) Valiquette's in 40 and Kevin Weekes has always worn 80.

QUESTION: Do you contact a new player and ask him what number he wants before he joins the team, or do they just show up at the training center and you offer them a number at that time?

MARQUES: It's a little bit of both. At training camp I pretty much just will contact the veteran players. Somebody who's just coming in on an invitation is going to get a number that I pick out. If it looks like he's going to make the team, we'll start picking his brain to see what number he wants to wear. But some guys will come in for camp, and they'll get a high number like 48, and they will feel that they've made it into the preseason and regular season, so they might want to stick with 48 because that's their new lucky number.

QUESTION: When Brendan Shanahan joined the team a year ago, you gave him the No. 14, even though Jason Ward had worn in the previous year and was coming back for 2006-07? How do you handle situations like that?

MARQUES: That was the easiest one. I talked to Brendan and told him his number was not a problem because Jason doesn't like 14. Brendan was willing to take another number, but I assured him that Jason had always wanted 16, but it had been taken by Tom Poti the year before. Poti had worn it as a kid, but had never worn it in the NHL before he wore it here. Now Poti's with the Islanders, where he can't wear 16 because it was Pat LaFontaine's number there and is retired.

QUESTION: Do players get emotionally attached to certain numbers?

MARQUES: I think they do. I remember (Sandis) Ozolinsh last year really wanted number eight, but (Marek Malik) had No. 8, so I told him it was already taken. We told him he could talk to him about switching numbers if he wanted, but Ozolinsh just wanted to know what else was available. So I told him 24 was available, and he said, well, two times four is eight, so I'll take 24. They'll kind of convince themselves of whatever they want. So for him, wearing 24 was the same thing as wearing No. 8.

QUESTION: Is there any range of numbers that the Rangers prefer to assign, or is any two-digit number fair game for a player who requests it?

MARQUES: We try not to give out high numbers because hockey numbers are somewhat traditional. But sometimes you get a guy like Michael Nylander that comes in, and all of a sudden he's 92, and then you have Marcel Hossa who's 81. You kind of tend to fall off that rule a little bit, but we tend not to give out the high numbers.

QUESTION: How long does it take to put together an actual jersey for a player once he's acquired in a trade and you know what number he'll be wearing?

MARQUES: I could probably have one in an hour. That happened with Dupuis. We were leaving for Washington, and before I left I made sure that we had the jersey in time. We carry blank jerseys, so if something does happen on the road and I can't overnight a jersey, I'll make up the jersey while we're on the road. We'll carry numbers, and the letters we'll trace out by hand and just stitch. We'll put it together ourselves. It doesn't look as nice, but you can't tell on TV.

QUESTION: Is it true that the home team in the NHL is responsible for laundering the road team's jerseys?

MARQUES: Yes, the home team takes care of the visiting team. We pick the jerseys up at the airport because we're the host team. They'll come in and we'll wash them and have them ready for game time. We'll wash their jerseys and our jerseys.

QUESTION: When teams go on the road, how many jerseys does each player bring?

MARQUES: It's pretty much just one jersey for every player.

QUESTION: Has the game-worn jersey authentication process affected how you do your jobs?

MARQUES: It has. It just means that we take the serial number off the jersey. We record it and who the player is and the time that he's worn it.

QUESTION: How many jerseys will a player go through in a season?

MARQUES: Four to six whites and four to six blues."

Great interview into a rather unknown world. Personally, I think it would be one of the best jobs in the world, but it could also be quite demanding. Either way, it sounds like Mr. Marques loves his job, and you can't ask for anything more than that.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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