From Frostburg Snow to Hockey’s Biggest Show


Watching athletes run, jump and contort their bodies in ways that seem superhuman is what makes sports a beautiful spectacle, no matter what you're watching. But for every moment that keeps your eyes glued to the action, there's a possibility of gruesome injury that instantly turns an average sporting event into a horror film.

While these instances cause many to turn away, Dr. Brandon Rodgers ’14 has always been one to run toward them. If you watched the 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup last season, there's a chance you saw him sitting on the bench observing the action.

Before his name was etched onto the Stanley Cup, Rodgers studied athletic training at FSU. He worked with FSU athletes off the field while contributing to FSU athletics on the field as well.

brandon rodgers hold stanely cup overhead during on-ice celebration.jpg

"I worked with basketball in the winter, lacrosse in the spring, and played on the soccer team all four years in the fall," Rodgers said.

Rodgers feels having a lifelong experience playing sports allowed him to be more successful in his current career.

"Being an athlete has allowed me to relate to players and understand the sacrifices they make on a daily basis," he said.

“Winning a championship is hard to put into words, but it's amazing to see all of your hard work and sacrifices pay off for something special.”

A Frostburg native, Rodgers always knew he wanted his career to be in sports. His only requirement was physical contact.

"I couldn't work in a sport where there's no contact; the thrill of working in a contact sport is what drew me to this profession."

Rodgers graduated with a bachelor's degree in athletic training (the FSU program has since transitioned to a master's degree), and he went on to attend the University of Pittsburgh where he would work toward his doctorate.

At Pitt, Rodgers dropped his name into National Hockey League athletic training circles by working in a small capacity with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After graduating from Pitt in 2017, he got his first job in professional sports, working with the NHL's Dallas Stars as a physical trainer.

After one season with the Stars, he was hired by his current employer, the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he is now entering his third season.

With the Lightning, Rodgers's duties are broad, and he never finds himself without something to do. Some of his "tools" include manual treatment, dry needling and massage therapy. The most common injuries he deals with affect the knees, hips and shoulders.

"We get a lot of MCL (medial collateral ligament in the knee) injuries. But most injuries in hockey are caused by sticks, pucks and players being rammed into the wall," he said.

Athletes, even those outside of professional sports, know that injuries can be part of the game, but Rodgers said hockey athletes are cut from a different cloth. He sees their upbringings as a big reason for this.

"A lot of these NHL guys are blue-collar guys from Canada that come from nothing. They're really just normal guys with more money, but they love the game," he said. "A lot of times I have to pull the reigns back on guys when they try to rush back into action too soon. You have to watch these players, because they'll say anything to get back on the ice."

brandon and stanley cup on boat
group of athletic trainers holding stanley cup overhead
brandon and stanley cup in lockeroom

Rodgers is truly living his dream in the NHL. Although his work is never truly done and the travel schedule can be grueling, there's nowhere he'd rather be than on the road with his team.

"The amount of time and commitment can be a lot; there're really no days off. We can fly into a city at 3 a.m., play at 7 p.m. and will be on the road again by midnight. But I wouldn't trade it for anything," he said. "I love what I do, and there's nowhere I'd rather be."

All the work Rodgers does with the team culminated in a Stanley Cup Championship last season, a milestone that went a long way toward putting his journey that started in Frostburg, Maryland, in perspective.

"Winning a championship is hard to put into words, but it's amazing to see all of your hard work and sacrifices pay off for something special. We will always be champions and those 52 names will be inscribed on the cup forever," he said.

As for the next step in his journey from Western Maryland to the highest level of professional sports, Rodgers loves his electrifying job with the Lightning and has no intention of moving on anytime soon.