Rick Braunstein hopes this is the last time he sees his name in the newspaper.
The next time he does, he knows it will be because something went wrong.
Braunstein, hired as the Golden Knights director of team services seven weeks ago, is responsible for getting the team to its road destinations. The 46-year-old native of Brooklyn, New York, is still getting to know Las Vegas, but he said he’s becoming a quick learner while relying on longtime contacts to get the team’s charter aircraft, hotels and other transportation booked for the upcoming season.
“So far, it’s been great,” said Braunstein, who held the same position with the Arizona Coyotes. “It’s a wonderful city and everyone I’ve met has been very friendly and helpful.”
In Braunstein’s line of work, you need all the friends you can get because you never know when you may be in a jam somewhere and can use a helping hand.
“Basically, this job is controlling things you can’t control, which is challenging,” he said. “We’re relying on other people to do their job so I can do mine.”
Whether it’s dealing with a bus breaking down, an airplane not ready to take off, an issue at customs or bad winter weather, Braunstein’s job is to get the Knights from one game to the next expeditiously.
“You try to anticipate as much as possible,” he said. “I try to be very thorough and organized with my planning. You do your homework. You overcommit and you know the people you’re working with and trust them.”
Braunstein said he tries to maintain a sense of calmness in times of crisis.
“I’ve found that when you’re nice to people and work with them you’ll get more out of them than screaming and yelling at them,” he said.
It’s that kind of temperament and experience that general manager George McPhee said the team was looking for when it came time to hire for this position.
“There’s a lot of details involved with this job so we wanted someone who was familiar with it,” McPhee said. “Rick did an excellent job in Phoenix and, coming here to Las Vegas, it’s a similar situation being in the desert.”
Flexibility a must
It’s not cheap to transport an NHL team throughout a season. McPhee said the team’s travel budget for the upcoming season will be approximately $6 million. There are 41 road games and the Knights will have to travel farther than most teams because of their location in Las Vegas. The team, which charters all its flights, will fly approximately 50,000 miles in its inaugural season.
In addition to the expense of chartering flights, the team stays in five-star hotels. There are buses that shuttle the team from the airport to the hotel to the rink and then back to the airport. There is also per diem to be paid to the players, team meals and ice rental on the road for practice.
For Braunstein, it’s not just about the players and coaches he has to take care of. There’s the equipment, medical and media relations staffs along with the team broadcasters that are part of the traveling party.
“Getting from point A to point B is a group effort,” he said. “You have to be super-organized or you’ll drown.”
And you have to be flexible.
Braunstein knows weather is going to be an issue at some point during the season and he tries to anticipate any problems which could hinder the team from reaching its destinations. He always has a contingency plan just in case it means flying to a different airport and taking a bus to the next city.
But sometimes even the best plans go awry. Like the time the Coyotes were in Raleigh, North Carolina, to play the Hurricanes in January 2000 and the city was hit with a paralyzing blizzard, shutting everything down and the players were snowbound in their hotel for four days.
With the hotel running out of food, Braunstein borrowed a car to go shopping. The team eventually played its game before moving on to its next stop in Washington after diverting to Greensboro, North Carolina, which is two hours from Raleigh, to catch its flight.
“That was probably the craziest thing,” he said. “But we managed to get through it.”
Contact Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.