A milestone night for longtime Steelheads equipment manager

Khris Bestel will work his 1,000th game tonight.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comMarch 19, 2014 

Khris Bestel joined the Idaho Steelheads in 2000 after three seasons in Toledo.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

  • IDAHO'S SEASON WINDING DOWN

    Last nine games

    • Home: 3 (March 19, April 4-5)

    • Road: 6

    • Regular season ends April 11-12 in Utah

    • Playoffs begin the week of April 7

    Playoff glance

    1. Alaska .680

    2. Ontario .680

    3. Utah .576

    4. Colorado .576

    5. Idaho .563

    6. Stockton .534

    7. Bakersfield .517

    8. Las Vegas .328

    All eight Western Conference teams qualify for the playoffs. Seeds based on winning percentage. Top four teams have home-ice advance in the first round.

— Khris Bestel isn't one to throw things away. He might need something one day to repair a skate or a piece of equipment.

"An organized hoarder," Steelheads President Eric said.

So when Bestel — or "Beast" as he's known in the organization for which he has served as equipment manager since 2000 — discovered an old box of locker nameplates all those years ago, he was going to find a place for them, too.

They fit well on the walls and ceiling of his office, which is tucked behind the Steelheads' locker room. The nameplates serve as a museum of sorts to the hockey team's history. The 2004 and 2007 championship teams have their own special place.

"His room is different than anything I've ever seen from a trainer's room. The way he keeps everything is cool," forward Gaelan Patterson said.

After Saturday night home victories, it becomes a lounge with players and coaches celebrating on his couch made of broken hockey sticks, drinking from the refrigerator with a tap for a beer keg and playing games on a full-scale arcade version of Pole Position II, this season's video game.

"Winning on a Saturday night is the best feeling. Coming into the room, the atmosphere, it's like no other," Bestel said.

In honor of his 1,000th game, the Steelheads are planning a celebration for Bestel before Wednesday's game against Colorado.

"He's a great asset to our organization, both as a manager and as a personality in the locker room. He gets the game," coach Brad Ralph said. "He knows how to handle players and that's half the battle."

Plenty of work, too, gets done in Bestel's office. There's a sewing machine for repairing torn gloves and stitching names onto the backs of jerseys. There's an accounting desk, where Bestel handles the purchasing and budgeting of equipment.

Before each game, Bestel sharpens each player's skates. After, he and several part-time assistants clean up both locker rooms and wash jerseys for both teams. He travels with the team during the season.

"Good thing he's single," Patterson said. "He seems to be here all day, all night. He obviously loves it."

Bestel, 45, said he has always wanted to do the job. He spent three seasons with Toledo's ECHL franchise before coming to Boise in 2000 to get closer to his hometown of Portland.

He's become a constant in the organization ever since.

"Khris is very good at his job," Trapp said. "In that job, you've got to be organized and efficient and he's both."

The job entails much more than just taking care of anything that goes on a player. He serves as a liaison between Ralph and players, who he often gets to know better than coaches.

Ralph said Bestel helped him establish the tone he wanted when he was hired. The pair had an immediate chemistry, Ralph said.

"I kind of relay what's going on outside to the players, where we're going, what direction we're going. I kind of do the same with the coaches, how we stand, what the atmosphere of the room is," Bestel said.

Ralph, who can be very down after losses, said Bestel reminds him to enjoy himself. For players, Bestel is a resource - and a guy with tons of great stories.

"He's the veteran in the room," Patterson said.

And Bestel makes an impact on the players who filter through the locker room, leaving behind memories and nameplates.

Bestel makes sure they're not forgotten by putting the nameplates on the wall. They make sure he isn't forgotten with phone calls or an occasional email. Some even send Christmas cards.

"It always brings a smile to my face to hear from some of the old players," Bestel said. "I just think of the camaraderie I had with the old players, the fun we had on the road, the winning and losing. It's just a great atmosphere all around. I wouldn't want to do anything else."

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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