WHEELING, W.Va. – On Tuesday afternoon, the ECHL announced its winners for the Athletic Trainer of the Year Award, presented by the Fairly Group, as well as the Equipment Manager of the Year, presented by Warrior Hockey. Both awards are honoring the head athletic trainers and head equipment managers from all 14 teams who participated in the 2020-21 season. For the Nailers, these awards go to Athletic Trainer Daniel Barker and Equipment Manager Bill Higgins.
Barker just completed his second season as the head athletic trainer for the Nailers. Before becoming an athletic trainer, Daniel grew up playing hockey, as he attended John Marshall High School, then went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree at Wheeling Jesuit University. Barker got his start with the Nailers as an intern under Jared Degler, then took over the head athletic trainer’s role in 2019. Daniel worked his 100th career game on April 3rd.
“On behalf of the ECHL, we would like to thank and recognize each of the Member Teams’ Athletic Trainers for their hard work and dedication,” said ECHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst. “We asked each of these individuals to go above and beyond this year with all of the testing, PPE and administrative aspects of our protocols on top of what each does daily to make sure their teams were ready to play. We would also like to thank the Fairly Group for helping honor and always being there to assist our Athletic Trainers when needed.”
Higgins just completed his 18th season as the head equipment manager for the Nailers, and previously won this award in 2013-14. Bill had a huge passion for hockey growing up, as he was an avid fan of the Thunderbirds and Nailers, and he also played his high school hockey at Wheeling Park High School. Higgins worked the 2007 ECHL All-Star Classic in Boise, Idaho, and remains the only member of the organization to ever work 1,000 games, as he finished this year with 1,279 regular season games and 85 playoff contests for an overall total of 1,364.
“On behalf of the ECHL, we would like to thank and recognize each of the Member Teams’ equipment managers for the hard work and dedication it took to make this season happen,” said ECHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst. “Each one of these individuals was tasked with a lot of extra work with all of our protocols on top of what normally is already a tough job. We also would like to thank our exclusive equipment provider Warrior Hockey for helping honor all the ECHL Equipment Managers.”
“I am proud of the work that Dan and Bill put in for us this season,” said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. “This was a challenging year for everyone with all of the new protocols, as well as the different variables that we faced. We are very fortunate to have two local people on our staff that take pride in our organization and our community.”
The Wheeling Nailers are just a few months away from beginning their 30th season. The puck drops in Fort Wayne on October 23rd, before the Nailers play their home opener against the Komets on Saturday, November 6th.