Philip E Watson: Intro and Path to NHL Career in Sports Medicine

Introducing Philip E Watson, assistant athletic trainer of the Minnesota Wild.

Hi everyone! I’m new to TorchPro and look forward to being part of this growing company and network of sports-minded people.

I am currently an assistant athletic trainer with the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League. I just finished my second year with the MN Wild, and it has been an interesting last year and a half for all of us due to the pandemic. In this article, I want to talk about where I came from and how I got to where I am today, while briefly touching on an important message of networking. In the future, I’ll touch on many topics involving the NHL, Athletic Training, Sports Medicine and hopefully respond to many questions from TorchPro readers, as well as getting into Covid-19 and its effects on the NHL and other sports.

I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and grew up in northern Minnesota in a small town, Cohasset, outside of Grand Rapids (home of a few NHLers!). I grew up on a lake and skated my whole life on lake ice and on outdoor rinks with friends and family. I loved the game of hockey but didn’t get the opportunity to play organized hockey until my younger cousin talked me into trying out for Junior Gold during my senior year of high school. For those of you who might not know, Junior Gold is a league administered through the community, not the high school. I laugh about it now, but my first day of tryouts was pretty much my first day in full gear, and using hockey gloves, not choppers! I had never done a drill; I don’t think I had sharpened my skates in over a year, and the times I skated on indoor ice could be counted on one hand. That first day I was falling all over the place and messing up every drill. After the first day, the coaches came to my cousin and said, “Why did you invite him?” My cousin said, “Give him one more day – he is a good hockey player.” That evening, I got my skates sharpened, and I rested up for Day 2. The next day arrived, and it was a few warm-up drills and then a full scrimmage. Let’s say that I could play the game, but not practice the game! I made the team (I still don’t remember if they cut anyone) and had a blast that year, enjoying the game in a different way from shinny on the lake/outdoor rink.

After high school, I enrolled in Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton for a year. At FAU I had two walk-on tryouts for their Division 1 soccer team, but I didn’t make it. Concerning the first tryout, I actually wasn’t allowed to try out because of the athletic trainer. I had forgotten to print off and have my hometown doctor sign one of the 40 forms on the athletic website, and that disqualified me from the tryout. This was my first interaction with athletic trainers, and it wasn’t a good one. However, it showed me a portion of what an athletic trainer’s job entails, and I was able to research further what athletic training was all about. At that time, I was attending college for a degree in Ocean Engineering; however, that degree plan didn’t interest me as much as I thought – and I wasn’t prepared for Calculus 2! After one year at FAU, I moved back to Minnesota and started on the path towards an Athletic Training degree. I had also always wanted to play professional soccer, but that didn’t work out, and I told myself that if I couldn’t play professional sports, then I wanted to work in professional sports.

Skip ahead to my junior year at Bethel University (St. Paul, MN): I wanted to find a way to differentiate myself from all the undergraduate athletic trainers in schools across the country. My classmates joked at me all the time, and I will touch more on this topic later, but networking is so important. I was able to get an internship with the University of Minnesota Men’s Hockey program my senior year of college and that helped me get a two-year graduate assistant position at the University of Maine-Orono. After graduate school, through connections I had made working elite summer soccer camps, I was able to get a job with the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer. After a year with Columbus Crew, I was thankful to be interviewed and offered a job with the NHL’s New York Islanders as an assistant athletic trainer. 2013 was my first of five seasons with the New York Islanders. It was a wonderful experience; I loved the players and staff. Sadly, some major family events happened, and my girlfriend and I, now wife, decided to step away and move closer to her family in Philadelphia. I spent two years in Philadelphia working for an amazing hand surgeon in a clinical setting, as well as assisting him in the operating room. Although I loved that job, especially the experience in an operating room, the clinic work became monotonous and I missed the hands-on side of athletic training. Then, I heard about an assistant athletic trainer position opening with the Minnesota Wild. After getting offered the position, and after much talk, my wife and I decided to make the move to Minnesota.

That brings us to today, working with, traveling, and being a part of professional hockey in my home state, “The State of Hockey.” Working with the Minnesota Wild, even three years ago, would have been a far-fetched dream, and yet here I am. I’m thankful for the opportunity to get back into the NHL and do a job I love, with great players and a wonderful organization.

There is so much more to every part of my career and I’ll touch on all that, piece by piece. Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay tuned for future articles from me as well as other athletes and minds on the TorchPro site. I can be reached at (, follow and comment TorchPro (@torchpro), and my personal Twitter handle, (@xflipper86x).