There’s going to be a little Falmouth flavor in Florida for the next few years. Former Athletic Performance Training director Mike Donaghue has been hired by the Florida Panthers as their new head strength and conditioning coach. Donaghue was hired after serving in the same role for the Panthers’ American Hockey League club, the Springfield Thunderbirds, the past year.
While the APT alum is moving to the National Hockey League, he is being replaced by an employee of the local training center in Springfield. Artie Hairston, who has been with APT since coming in as an intern in 2016, is replacing Donaghue in Springfield.
Both native Cape Codders are excited about their new opportunities.
Donoghue, who started in Falmouth at APT in 2013, has worked hand in hand with high school and college athletes to help them improve their games. He said getting into the professional sports world in Springfield was eye-opening and exciting, and now the chance to work with NHL players has the former Barnstable High Red Raider psyched to begin.
“To get a career in the NHL is pretty cool,” he said. “Not many people get this chance.”
Donoghue said that his relationship with Falmouth resident Paul Vincent, who runs development camps at the Falmouth Ice Arena, played a key role in his advancement. Vincent, who won a Stanley Cup as the skills coach for the Chicago Blackhawks and has been serving in that capacity with the Panthers, helped Donoghue with his network of connections. “He showed me how to be a professional and put me in a spot where I know to be one,” Donoghue said.
At the top level of the game, Donoghue said that his job is helping players to get the most out of their bodies that they can. “What they need is pretty specific,” he explained. “I help construct a plan to address those limiting factors that might be keeping them from the level they want to be at...it’s not just random training for the sake of training. Everything has a purpose.”
Florida has made numerous coaching staff changes after a disappointing season last year. Donoghue said that he is focused on helping the team to be playing deep into the postseason next spring. “We want to be the last team on the ice and a team that is competing in the playoffs,” he said.
Hairston, a Dennis-Yarmouth High School and Springfield College grad, hopes to be helping Donoghue by getting the guys in the AHL ready for the NHL. The high school and college football player said that he didn’t foresee a job in pro hockey when he was doing his schooling because of his football and lacrosse background, but he’s come to love the game. He’s even learning how to skate from Vincent and said that this is his life’s “next exciting challenge.”
“Mike did an incredible job there, and I’m hoping to do the same. I want to move the needle,” he said.
Dedication to improving his own physical well-being and performance drove him to get into the field he is in. “I caught the bug,” he said. “For me, it was a game-changer in terms of confidence.”
Even professional athletes can benefit from that boost, he said. Hairston is excited to get started with the Thunderbirds and hopes to help the players that he works with reach the levels that they aspire to.
“I enjoy working with anyone that is willing to listen,” he said. “It’s all about goal-setting.”
Both men are moving up the ladder and hope to continue to help make great athletes even better.
“The way I see this, this is my dream,” Hairston said.
For Pete Tormey, the owner and founder of APT, the situation is both exciting and challenging. He’s very happy for his former employees and the opportunities that they have, but he wasn’t happy to have to replace them.
“It’s pretty cool. Both of them are very good at what they do and I knew there was going to be an end of the road,” he said. “We built APT on trying to be the best and with it comes these high-end strength coaches that are going to be in high demand.”
Tormey said that the internship program that APT has developed over the years, which is how Hairston came to work there, has helped to restock the coffers with excellent replacements. He joked that he wasn’t looking forward to replacing the crew that he has now, but won’t be surprised if they hear from a high-end college or pro team and APT has to find new blood once again.
“This is really a great accomplishment,” he said. “For them to have those chances speaks to the work that they’ve done here and what kind of people they are.”