Rainer Meyer is a big part of the Wrangler Nation.
The longtime physiotherapist has been with the team’s trainer since 2013, at the request of former president Tom Bachynski. He is responsible for the players’ overall health and treating injuries such as cuts, bruises, concussions, sprains and shoulder issues.
“It’s great fun for me, I like to help teams like this,” said Meyer, 66, who also runs Rainer’s Health House & Academy in 108 Mile Ranch. “I like to work with our organization, the Wranglers. They’re very nice people and even our coach Dale Hladun is a nice guy. I’m very happy to be a part of this group.”
Meyer became a physiotherapist in 1984, after leaving a 12-year career as a Master Sgt. in the German army. Wanting to help people, he studied massage therapy and later physiotherapy. In the early 1990s, he became the physiotherapist for a German hockey team where he gained some of the valuable skills he uses today.
As a trainer, one of his greatest fears is for a player being accidentally cut by a skate. As a result, he watches every Wranglers’ game intently to follow the action and see how any injuries occur.
“It can happen in every minute of the game. You have to be always focused on the ice and the most important thing you have to know is how the accident happens. You have to talk to the boys on the ice and take your time step-by-step leaving the ice and go into the change room to check it out.”
Pain tolerance plays a big factor in treatment. Meyer said he’s seen players finish games with broken toes and ribs and others who can’t play with a bruised fingernail.
As part of his job, Meyer fills out any paperwork required by the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League for serious injuries and prepares a treatment plan for injured players. Concussions are especially important as they can potentially have long-term effects.
Meyer typically eases a player back on the ice by first having them skate without gear and then regular practice without contact. They can then return to full play. He’ll also treat the players at his business when he needs specific equipment.
While looking after the players’ physical health is his primary goal, Meyer said he also often finds himself supporting their mental health. When the Wranglers go on a long losing streak their morale suffers and he does his best to boost it.
“I like to work with people and help them,” Meyer said. “When you’re the (team physiotherapist) you’re involved when the team is losing and winning. Sometimes when we’re losing, I’m even more involved because you don’t only need to treat people with injuries you also have to talk to the players. Some of them can get very sensitive when they’re not scoring, so you have to give them some advice and encouragement.”
While he does get paid for his services, Meyer said it’s not the reason he’s stayed with the team. In the past, he’s paid for medication out of his own pocket just to help the team out.
“This is nothing about the payment, this is about being involved in a very nice community group.”
Before the Wranglers took up most of his spare time, Meyer used to volunteer with the 100 Mile House & District Historical Society, the 108 Mile Lions Club and South Cariboo Search and Rescue. Getting involved in the community, Rainer said, has always been a great way to give back to the community and get to know people.
“In the beginning when we were here in 2002 we were absolute newcomers. Nobody knows you, nobody talks to you but now everybody knows my name and talks to me. I am so happy here.”