Fresh out of high school from Greenfield, Mass., in 1986, Chris Kingsley's first love was hockey, and he headed to North Adams to play on the College's team. But when a knee injury sidelined him before his first season started, he decided to pursue sports medicine.
Fast forward nearly 26 years later to June 11, 2012 - the day the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup. As the head athletic trainer for the team, "Everything flashed through my mind," Kingsley said. "You never forget where you come from. I wouldn't change anything."
Back in 1986, this reality seemed quite the long shot - but not to Kingsley. At the time, the College - then North Adams State - did not offer a bachelor's degree in athletic training, as MCLA does today. However, the biology department had a concentration in sports medicine. To get into that program, Kingsley had to go through an interview process with its advisors and then-head athletic trainer Keith Frary.
"I said, 'Someday, I want to be in the NHL,'" Kingsley recalled. Then, the National Hockey League consisted of just 24 teams. "'He said, 'You realize that there are only, say, 24 jobs.' I said, 'Well, eventually, I'm going to have one of them.'"
Now in his sixth season with the Kings, Kingsley started out much like students in MCLA's athletic training major do - with lots of hands-on learning and experience. Besides working with the student-athletes on a variety of the College's teams - including the baseball team and the women's soccer and basketball teams, as well as the hockey team NASC had at the time - he served an internship with Don DelNegro, then the head athletic trainer at Williams College, and now the head athletic trainer of the Boston Bruins.
While athletic training wasn't a new field when Kingsley started out, the educational component for this career was in its initial stages of development in terms of curriculum programs, certifications, and the licensure that has become part of the allied health profession.
"Keith Frary had a vision of building an athletic training program at the College," Kingsley said. "He came in there and had a vision of what he wanted to do, and provided that service and that opportunity with a curriculum to grow the field."
Today, the athletic training major at MCLA is the only one of its kind in Berkshire County and nearby the regions of New York and Vermont.
Kingsley's favorite part of the job is that every day presents a new challenge.
"These are the best athletes, obviously the best hockey players in the world, in the National Hockey League," he said. "Being able to work with these players is outstanding. Every day they come in and they want to get better."
His main duty is prevention.
"We want to do everything we can to keep these guys healthy, to make sure that they stay on the ice. But, when they are injured and they're banged up, hockey players are some of the toughest athletes in the world. They do not want to miss a game. Very rarely do they miss."
Kingsley advises students to always strive for what they want. "Have a goal in mind and go after it. If it's in the field of athletic training, learn as much as you can, from as many different people as you can."
After graduating from the College in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in biology and a concentration in sports medicine, Kingsley headed to Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., where he served as its director of sports medicine.
It was DelNegro who urged Kingsley to earn his master's degree. So, in between his fourth and fifth years at Cushing, he attended Indiana State University, where he earned a master's of science degree in athletic training in 1995. He later went on to work for the American Hockey League (AHL), serving three seasons with the Lowell Lock Monsters.
Kingsley most recently was the head athletic trainer for the Kings' primary AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, where he worked when the franchise began in 2001, before moving on to the Kings in 2006.
He is thankful for the education he received at the College. "My whole path - I wouldn't change it at all."
For more information about MCLA's Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training, go to www.mcla.edu/Undergraduate/majors/athletictraining.