by Pam Denlinger || AHL On The Beat Archive
The Hershey Bears are in the midst of celebrating their 70th season in the AHL. In those 70 years there have been countless players, coaches, staff and fans that have worn the uniform of the Chocolate and White. Among those that have pledged their support, there is a man who has made loyalty to the Hershey Bears his career for the past 30 years.
At the age of 12 years old, Dan “Beaker” Stuck lived a few miles down the road from Hershey in Hummelstown, Pa. It was an invitation to a Bears game by his cousin who was working as a stick boy for the visiting hockey team that brought Stuck to the Bears organization for the first time. During the 1977-78 season, Stuck himself became a stick boy for the visiting team and his tenure with the Hershey Bears began.
Through countless games, road trips and Calder Cup championships, Stuck in 2007-08 celebrates his 30th year with the organization that has been the only job he has ever had.
Stuck served as a stick boy for the visiting team the remainder of the 1977-78 season into the 1978-79 season. It was Bobby Trenn, the head trainer for the Bears, who invited Stuck to join the home team for the 1979-80 season as a locker room attendant. That year the Bears won the Calder Cup in Hersheypark Arena.
Stuck recalls this memory as one of his fondest moments with the Bears organization.
“Being out on the ice and collecting the equipment after the game in front of the home crowd with Bobby and Chuck Trenn… being a stick boy that was awesome,” he said.
It would be the first of four Calder Cup titles that Stuck would be a part of. Throughout high school Stuck took some sports medicine classes, and his work with the Bears was counted as work study. Under his name in his senior yearbook for life goals he wrote he wanted to become the head athletic trainer for the Hershey Bears. Along with the classes that Stuck took in high school, he continued his sports medicine studies by taking classes at Harrisburg Area Community College. The foundation was being laid for a long future in Chocolatetown.
In 1981, Stuck became an assistant athletic trainer for the Bears, a position he held for three years. While his dream had come true, the dream was put on hold for one season to join the National Hockey League. In 1984, Stuck left for a year to be the assistant equipment manager for the Philadelphia Flyers. He worked with the Flyers for only one season, but during his brief stint in the City of Brotherly Love, the Flyers made it into the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Edmonton Oilers.
Returning to Central PA, Stuck rejoined the Bears in 1985 and was named the head athletic trainer for the team, a position he has held for the past 23 seasons.
Stuck’s career has spanned over four decades and in that time there have been many changes to the game of hockey, which has changed his job considerably. One thing that Stuck is thankful for is the face shields on players’ helmets which are now mandatory in the AHL.
When Stuck started as a stick boy with the Bears wearing a helmet wasn’t even a requirement. Since the requirement of face shields he has noticed a decrease in head injuries. Today, Stuck works hand in hand with the Penn State Medical staff and gives them a lot of credit for the safety and well-being of the Bears roster.
One of the greatest changes that have occurred during the career of Stuck is not the game of hockey changing, but the location of where the Bears play their home hockey games. Hersheypark Arena is where the Bears began their legacy, but today that legacy continues at Giant Center.
Giant Center may only be across a parking lot from the old venue, but the differences are many. Stuck jokingly said that one of the main differences between the two venues is “the mold and the cockroaches.”
But the atmosphere back in the day was second to none. Hersheypark Arena intimidated players from other teams, an advantage he saw first-hand.
“When you talk to visiting teams, the old school guys they didn’t like coming in [to Hersheypark Arena] because the fans were on top of them. They were kind of like our sixth player on the ice.”
Stuck says that the Giant Center has many great attributes including the video board, whirlpools, and the air conditioning that is most greatly appreciated during the playoffs. He also notes that on a great night at the Giant Center the crowd can be heard just like in Hersheypark Arena.
Having missed only four games during his career, Stuck has amassed many great memories with the Chocolate and White. One of his greatest memories includes the Maritime road trip in 1982, which was his first road trip with the Bears and he was able to celebrate the New Year twice when they crossed into a different time zone. Stuck has also had the pleasure of being part of four Calder Cup championship teams, which he considers to be great milestones of his career.
Many people may think that when the Bears season ends Stuck gets to enjoy his summer months at home like the players he trains. However, Stuck is busy 12 months of the year. When he is not training a roster of hockey players he is the head trainer to the performers in Hersheypark.
“I go from Under Armour to Fruit of the Looms,” he said about his transition from hockey players to dancers.
Stuck works hard throughout the entire year as an employee of Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, and although he may not have the summer months off that the Bears do, “I look forward to coming to work every day.”
Stuck is synonymous with Hershey Bears hockey. He has seen many players and coaches pass through the Bears organization since he started back with the team 30 seasons ago. Stuck is a local guy who works for his local team and he counts himself as very lucky in that regard. He resides in Palmyra with his family, just a short distance down the road from where he grew up.
Stuck has not moved far away, but the goals he set for himself when he was just a teenager have become a reality. Not many people are as lucky as Stuck has been. He lives his dream job every day and he counts himself as a very blessed man. For the last 30 years, the boy who came with his cousin once upon a time now is the heart and soul of the home dressing room.
The Hershey Bears are lucky to have a guy like Dan Stuck on their side.