LAS VEGAS — T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip showcases the ice where one of the greatest professions in sports exists for a guy who earned his start with the Billings Bulls hockey club.
"We do a lot of preventative care for (the players) to make sure they’re working at 100%,” Mike Muir told MTN Sports. Muir has been assistant athletic trainer for the Vegas Golden Knights since the NHL expansion team debuted in 2017.
Call it a 30-year overnight success story. Muir went from winning the Borne Cup (multiple times) as a junior league champion with Billings during the 1990s to hoisting the Stanley Cup on T-Mobile Arena's ice a few months ago as champion of the National Hockey League.
"It was pretty amazing," Muir recalled. "A lot of jumping in the air, hugging all my teammates — the performance group, the equipment guys. And then a chance on the ice to lift the Cup.”
More than a job, his career is a passion.
"If you enjoy doing it, it’s not work," he said.
It seems like yesterday Vegas set the ice on fire, instantly reaching the Stanley Cup Final in its first year as an expansion team. Fast forward to last June when they hammered Florida 9-3 in front of their home fans to win it.
"The locker room afterwards is probably always the most fun with the guys," Muir said. "They close the doors and, yeah, I get to celebrate with the players.”
One player rising through the ranks with Muir — they previously worked together within the L.A. Kings organization — is defenseman Alec Martinez, who's become a good friend.
"Yeah, Muirsey, Meercat … got a lot of nicknames over the years,” Martinez told MTN Sports with a smile.
Martinez is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, twice winning with the Kings. As a league veteran, he's jokingly almost dad to some of these guys and admits that winning the Cup this most recent time delivered a different vibe.
"There were a couple times where I physically just stepped back and tried to take a look around," Martinez recalled. "How many opportunities in life do you get to see someone fulfill a lifelong dream? Sharing this with people you care about and bringing this full circle — I mean Muirsey, seeing him hoist it was pretty damn cool.”
The Stanley Cup may be the coolest trophy in sports. Certainly, it's the most unique.
Players and select staffers get their names forever engraved on it. Even better, they get to keep it for a day — anywhere in the world.
"I chose to bring it back to my hometown in Ottawa," Muir said. "My mom still lives in the same house I grew up in and we’re right off of City Park. That’s where I played youth baseball, Little League baseball and outdoor hockey every year they’d have the outdoor rink.
"So, we did a fundraiser for them where, whatever you want to donate, just come take a picture with the Cup. I think we ended up with $4,500 for the Little League. I was pretty happy with that.”
Martinez admits his third time around was pretty casual.
"You know, I did pictures in the morning. You kind of treat it like a wedding," he said with a chuckle. "I had a videographer, a photographer. … I guess I didn’t have a cake this time.”
Speaking of weddings, Muir probably never imagined posing for a photo with both the Cup and his wife when he married Kim Maxwell — born in Miles City and raised in Billings — years ago. The couple gleefully looks like they're cradling their first born.
Another perk — the White House champions visit. Muir and the Golden Knights were honored just last month with President Joe Biden who joked at the time, "On an ice rink in the middle of the desert. Who says you can't get anything done."
Now, the league-leading Golden Knights and their athletic training staff are trying to get it done again.
"Here’s our motto that we’ve had since Year 1: Uplift the Players to Lift up the Cup," Muir explained pointing to the training room wall where the logo is stamped. "And then once we did win the Cup, we threw in the ‘Again’ for this year so we can keep repeating that.”
This year, team owner Bill Foley, who has a home near Whitefish, opted to partner with Scripps Sports — the parent company for Montana's Television Network — to televise his regular-season games across Montana. The Golden Knights' team schedule can be seen here.
Meanwhile, if you dial up a game, you'll likely see Muir standing right there behind the bench. The best spot in the house. The best job in the world, by his account.