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Islanders' trainer ex-Sabres fan Former Buffalo resident has no loyalty conflict, now he cares only for his Long Island charges

Garrett Timms was a big Buffalo Sabres fan as he grew up, cheering on former stars Mike Foligno and Gilbert Perreault in thrilling contests in Memorial Auditorium.

Timms had a front-row seat for the Sabres-Islanders playoff games Thursday and Saturday -- but this time he was rooting against his boyhood favorites.

The Town of Tonawanda native has new loyalties now that he is the head athletic trainer for the New York Islanders.

"There's no confliction right now. The only thing I'm concerned about is the New York Islanders. That's who I work for," Timms said in an interview Saturday in HSBC Arena before Game Two of the teams' first-round playoff series, which the Islanders won, 3-2.

Between the first two games, Timms, who is 33, took time to introduce the Islanders' staff to favorite local restaurants.

He's standing strong with the Islanders even as his Buffalo-area friends go out of their way to let him know they're rooting on the Sabres.

"I wish [the Sabres] all the luck, but not against us," he said.

This is Timms' first year as head trainer with the Islanders, though he has been with the organization for six years.

As a teenager, he played soccer at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, and an ankle injury he suffered there was his first exposure to sports medicine.

"I injured myself," he said. "I went through physical therapy myself, so that opened my eyes to it."

Timms went on to study sports medicine as an undergraduate at Marietta College in Ohio and earned his master's degree at the University of Cincinnati.

Timms always was a big hockey fan growing up here and went to a number of Sabres games in the Aud as a kid. He fondly remembers the time Foligno gave him his stick.

So it's no surprise he went to work as a trainer for hockey players. He started out as a trainer with hockey teams at St. Lawrence University in northern New York and at Miami University of Ohio.

Timms joined the Islanders organization with their American Hockey League team in Bridgeport, Conn.

In his current role, he and his staff work to make sure the team is physically prepared for the 82-game regular NHL season and the playoffs.

Much of what the trainers do -- such as giving massages and helping players stretch -- is part of injury prevention.

But Timms, who travels with the team for road games, also is the first person to respond if a player gets injured on the ice. He works closely with the team's medical specialists on follow-up treatment.

"I enjoy going to work every day. I work with 22 highly motivated athletes," Timms said.

The first night the Islanders arrived in Buffalo last week, he steered the coaching and training staffs to dinner in Lombardo's Ristorante on Hertel Avenue.

"We want them to get a taste of Buffalo," said Timms, who is engaged to a local woman, Anne Uba.

Timms is a professional, but can he completely block out his old feelings for the Sabres?

He insisted he could.

When asked for whom his parents were rooting, Timms smiled tightly and replied, "They support their son."

His friends, however, are a different story.

He said they take pleasure in sending him text messages during Sabres-Islanders games that tease him and helpfully point out whatever Buffalo has done well.

Timms said he doesn't mind the abuse because he's getting the chance to do what he loves.

"This is what I've been working toward. This is it. This is the NHL," he said, showing a flash of his competitive spirit.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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