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Nailers’ Barker enjoys unforgettable week

Contributed MEMORABLE WEEK — Nailers athletic trainer Dan Barker, center, recently represented Wheeling in the ECHL All-Star game the same week his first child was born. Barker worked the bench with, from left, Toledo Head Coach Dan Watson, Cincinnati Head Coach Jason Payne (a former Wheeling Nailers player), Orlando Head Equipment Manager Adam Dexter and Orlando Assistant Equipment Manager Craig Levasseur.

WHEELING — Last week was a whirlwind for Wheeling Nailers’ athletic trainer Daniel Barker.

On Tuesday, Jan 11, he found out he was named the athletic trainer for the 2022 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Classic in Jacksonville, Fla.

The next day, his girlfriend and Nailers’ Director of Game Operations Katie Strong, gave birth to a son.

The magical week didn’t stop there. After spending an unforgettable day with Strong and his newborn son Deklan, Barker was whisked off to Jacksonville, Fla. for the upcoming game.

“Katie gave birth at 8:52 a.m. on Wednesday and I flew out at 6 a.m. on Thursday,” Barker said. “I had to move the flight to Thursday because the team flew out Wednesday but it worked out. I was able to be at the hospital with Katie and to see the little man and make sure everyone was good.

“I can’t say enough about Katie. She was so strong through everything. She is going to be an incredible mother. Deklan has a good set of parents.”

In just his third season with the Nailers, Barker became the first Wheeling athletic trainer to be named to an all-star game.

“It was awesome to see the development of the ECHL,” Barker said. “There were different caliber guys around who continue to make hockey better. There is not a lot of contact in the all-star games so I basically just taped up some shoulders. There was a lot of fellowship from players and coaches.”

Barker graduated from John Marshall High School and often attended Wheeling Nailers games as a kid. He knew he wanted to be a part of the sport in some capacity but simply wasn’t sure what that might be. That was until his mother provided an idea that changed his life.

“I went to a lot of games growing up and that sparked my interest into hockey,” Barker said. “Originally I was going to be a teacher but my mom saw an email from Wheeling Jesuit about athletic training and she said she thought I’d be good at it. So the credit goes to her. My mom is the ultimate supporter and she believed in me. I’m thankful for her because it’s awesome to work here. As a local kid growing up and watching this team – it makes it even more special to represent my home town in the all-star game. It’s pretty incredible really.”

Barker and the Nailers are back on home ice this weekend for three games as the team tries to make a playoff push during the second half of the season.

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