When Nate LaPoint hung up his skates at Division II Northland College and transferred to the University of North Dakota, he had no idea whether his career in hockey would continue.
His playing days were over, but the next step in his hockey career led him to new opportunities behind the scenes.
Last month, the 35-year-old Stoughton resident was chosen to be the equipment manager for the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
LaPoint completed his 11th season as the equipment manager and purchasing associate for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey program in March. He’s worked at USA Hockey development camps during his time with the Badgers and served as the equipment manager for the 2018 and 2019 Under-18 select teams that went to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup – an annual international U-18 tournament.
“Usually a guy working in the college ranks works with the Junior Team,” he said. “You have to build trust with USA Hockey, and I’ve been fortunate enough to do that. Not everyone has a chance to do this, so when the opportunity comes along, it’s a big honor.”
LaPoint is an Eau Claire native and graduate of Eau Claire North High School. The 6-foot defenseman dished out three assists in 49 games over two years at Northland College.
LaPoint transferred to North Dakota to complete his schooling. When UND’s coaches were recruiting his younger brother Derrick, they asked if Nate wanted to be the team’s equipment manager. He spent four years as the Fighting Sioux’s assistant equipment manager before graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in general studies and a minor in meteorology.
Wisconsin hired LaPoint before the 2009-10 season. He deals with a little bit of everything – skate sharpening, fixing pads, helmets and skates, equipment inventory, laundry and travel logistics.
“It’s a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none job where you have to know a little about everything to keep the players going as efficiently as possible,” he said.
His wife, Callie, is the Events and Visitor Services Manager at the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce. The couple’s daughter Hazel recently completed kindergarten at Fox Prairie Elementary School in Stoughton.
Nate LaPoint may have to spend next Christmas away from his family. The World Junior Championship will take place in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta, from Dec. 26, 2020 through Jan. 5, 2021. The first evaluation camp begins in late July.
“Hockey is such a close-knit sport. Players are coming from all over the country from different schools and leagues, but I know a lot of other equipment managers,” LaPoint said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out each player’s needs and wants. They kind of know what I do already.”
LaPoint will serve on a staff that includes head coach Nate Leaman (Providence head coach) and assistants Ted Donato (Harvard coach), Kris Mayotte (Michigan coach) and Steve Miller (Ohio State coach).