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Gloves Off: Josh Sullivan

The National Lacrosse League is home to the best box lacrosse players in the world. They are at the top of their game, put on stellar athletic performances and have diehard, competitive attitudes. 

With lacrosse action suspended until the pandemic has subsided, NLL players have been missing the game fiercely. Thankfully, they have stayed busy in their day-to-day lives. They’ve spent more time with friends and family, honed different types of skills, and remained grounded during this tumultuous moment in history. 

Gloves Off is a 13-installment series that peels back the layers of our athletes to uncover more about their lifestyle and personal lives, learning about their hobbies, passions and more, with the goal of making them inherently more relatable to their fans. 

Josh Sullivan lives dangerously – in extreme or hot or cold, depending which piece of equipment he’s working on. 

When he’s not playing defense for the Colorado Mammoth, the 7-year NLL veteran is a power engineer at Nova Chemicals, just outside of Red Deer, Alberta. It’s an ethylene production facility, “which is the gas phase of plastic production,” he explains. 

“There’s a potential for danger. A lot of the equipment that we work with is very high pressure, like steam that’s 14,000 kPa, or a lot of high temperature stuff like boilers which can have an internal temperature of 1000˚ C. We also have cryogenic processes in our plant that reach -100˚ C. You have the potential to get burned either way.” 

Sullivan’s grandfather was an immigrant from the Netherlands who built cars, and the mechanical aspect of that always piqued the his interest. Though he was too little to be much help in the early days, Sullivan says he learned patience and hard work from passing his grandfather the necessary tools in the garage.  

“Nothing is ever given. It’s earned. My grandfather was definitely the most patient and hard-working man I knew, and I would like to think I’ve held onto the values he taught me,” Sullivan said. “I think he would have been proud of the path I’ve chosen.” 

After finishing high school in Red Deer, Sullivan took a 2-year certification program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology where he received hands-on training in addition to his classes. The 30-year-old has been working for Nova for the last 11 years but hasn’t ruled out returning to school to upgrade his second-class designation. 

The type of equipment that Sullivan takes care of is standard in many large buildings – including arenas.  

Theres a really broad range of stuff you can do with power engineering,” he says. “Power generation; gas refineries; even hockey rinks, running the refrigeration system for the ice. You can work in any one of those fields. If you get bored in one field you can jump into another. You learn something every day. 

Sullivan’s almost always on his feet, moving from one piece of equipment to the other, like how he covers opponents ilacrosse. He’s checks monitors, levels, and various flows to catch anything before it breaks. His responsibilities include preventative maintenance and preparing equipment for repair once it does break.  

Sullivan credits his colleagues in Red Deer with being able to be a professional athlete in the NLL.  

“I’ll take their days or weekends in the summer if they’ll work do shifts for me in the winter,” he says.  

His team at Nova is similar to the team setting in lacrosse, Sullivan details. “If we ever get into an upset condition or we have a piece of equipment that fails, we have meetings every morning and we talk about these scenarios. Everybody has their own post that we have to take care of if we ever find ourselves in an upset condition.” 

It’s not unlike morning shootaround, where coaches will walk their players through the upcoming game to get them prepared for everything the opposition will throw at them. 

Having multiple responsibilities, “definitely makes you appreciate the fact that you get to play lacrosse professionally,” Sullivan says“Two years ago, I broke my tibia and fibula and my whole lacrosse career flashed before my eyes – I thought, ‘could this be it? If something like that were to happen, I’m glad I have this training fall back on.” 

Sullivan is missing lacrosse but he’s being kept busy at home these days – he and his wife Michelle recently welcomed their first child, a boy named Gage. It’s been nice to be home for his first months, even though all Gage has done so far is “just be a baby and tire mom and dad out!”