Patriots equipment manager dies after 41 seasons with the team

Don Brocher, the New England Patriots equipment manager who was the longest-tenured employee in franchise history, died on Monday night after battling leukemia for several months. He was 60 and had just completed his 41st season with the team.

“The Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization awoke with very heavy hearts this morning,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “That is when most of us learned of Don’s passing. He had fought this deadly disease so valiantly all season long. We were all optimistic that he would defeat it and fully recover. He was back on our sidelines just two weeks ago for our game against the 49ers and I can’t remember ever seeing him happier. I am glad I had that opportunity to thank him once again for his loyalty and countless contributions to the team. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Laurie, and all who knew Don and are mourning his loss today.”

Brocher was hired as a 19-year-old ball boy in 1972 and was brought on as a full-time member of the equipment staff later that year. He was promoted to equipment manager in 1994.

After Brocher was diagnosed with leukemia in August, he stayed behind when the team made a trip to Tampa for a preseason game — the first game Brocher had missed in 40 years, snapping a streak of 834 consecutive Patriots preseason, regular season and postseason games that he had worked.