By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
TRENTON, N.J. – Stephan Lipinski had just become a father for the first time around 3:30 p.m. on March 19, 2002 after his wife Kerri delivered their son Lucas, when he looked at the clock, turned to his excited family and said.
“I still can make it to the Titans game tonight!”
They didn’t realize he was joking for a second, but you can’t blame them, because for six years, the Titans have been Lipinski’s second family.
Lipinski’s final game as trainer for the Titans will be Sunday when the Titans host the Johnstown Chiefs at Sovereign Bank Arena. He will move on to be the assistant trainer for the Flyers.
That March day was the only game Lipinski missed during his Titans’ career, no one in the Titans organization has worked as many games as Lipinski.
Even the game he missed, Lipinski was ready to help out in a crisis. Matt Libby tore his ACL and only Lipinski had the key to the safe that holds the medicine in the Titans locker room, when he heard about the dilemma he was ready to drive down to Sovereign Bank Arena.
The Titans managed without Lapinski that night, but he will be tough to replace.
“People skill wise he has been ready to be in the NHL for sometime,” said former Titans coach Troy Ward. “He has always had the foundation to go where he is going. It is a real credit in life if you have your basic human instincts and you are a good person you can achieve anything you want and he is proof.”
Lipinski always has gone the extra mile countless times for the Titans throughout his career.
“Pinner (Lipinski) is a team guy,” said former Titans coach Bill Armstrong. “Whenever you needed something done he would get it done for you. He took great pride in being a Titan.”
There was one instance when the Titans were flying from Mercer County Airport for a trip south when Lipinski noticed the equipment trunks were being wheeled away from the plane because they did not meet weight restrictions. Lipinski volunteered to drive the Titans van with the equipment from Trenton to Charleston, South Carolina. Lipinski and broadcaster Joe Zydlo arrived in Charleston at 5:30 a.m.
There are countless “Pinner” stories that prove his worth as a trainer and as a person.
When Peter Horachek took over for Ward and wanted to set up his office, Lipinski was there, painting for the new coach. When the Titans were stopped by a serious accident on their way to Richmond during the 2002-2003 season Lipinski was the first off the bus, racing to the scene to see if he could assist in any way.
Lipinski managed to stay ahead of the learning curve when it came to finding the latest techniques or equipment while getting and keeping players healthy, keeping them at ease at the same time.
“I spent a lot of time with him,” said Titans forward Scott Bertoli, who like Lipinski has been with the team since the team’s inception. “Many times injuries were projected to be however long and it seems he is always getting me (or other players) back earlier, because he goes out and gets the state of the art equipment. He does his research and he spends a lot of time looking into things.”
Horachek felt Lipinski’s professional manner and personality made his job easy.
“He communicated very well with me,” said Horachek of Lipinski. “He got along with the players, but was able to push the players and get them back on the ice quickly. He was very honest and knew his stuff very well. He is one of the best guys I have ever dealt with.”
An outstanding guitarist, who combined with Zydlo to form a group called the Kosmik Kow, Lipinski passes time on the road trying to locate guitar stores in every ECHL city.
“He is fun to joke around with,” said Bertoli of Lipinski. “He will give it back to you. He is a laid-back type of guy who appreciates his job, he appreciates where he is and has fun with it.”
Just being around Lipinki makes people feel better, you couldn’t ask anything more from a trainer.