Derek Clemens: The Life of a Hockey Equipment Manager

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As part of his equipment manager job, Clemens wears a fanny pack on the bench with essentials such as tape, scissors, and a sweet-stick skate sharpener in it – Photo by Jeff Pelletier

When you hear about hockey, your mind immediately goes to the players. However, the people you often don’t hear about are the guys who work behind the scenes of a hockey team to keep everything running.

One of those guys is Derek Clemens.

Clemens is the Assistant Program Manager, which also means he is the equipment manager, a team scout, and video coordinator for the Carleton Ravens women’s hockey team.

“As their equipment manager I am in charge of all their skates and making sure they have all the proper equipment. If something is broken, I need to either fix it or find a replacement. As video coordinator, I make sure whoever is video taping the game, that they’re doing their job, and then I check up on them between periods, and then after the game I have it on the SD card, throw it on the computer, and if one of the coaches wants to see something right away I can find it in the game,” Clemens said.

“And as team scout, I went to a midget and a junior Stoney Creek tournament two consecutive weekends in a row with Ravens assistant coach Tawnya Guindon. So, the goal there is to be visible to parents, and teens, and players so they know we’re watching their games in order to create some awareness about Carleton University and make people know our campus more while also getting quality players and individuals interested in our school,” he added.

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Growing up with Tawnya Guindon as children, Clemens is now getting the chance to work with her as she has joined the team as an assistant coach – Photo by Jeff Pelletier

Last season, Clemens was more involved in the video aspect. Due to the other jobs he has taken on this season, the team is looking into a new software to get things rolling on the video side, and have all coaches work with the software.

“Last year I was coding the games and I was in charge of making sure the camera was working well while the game was going on, so, everything that happened in the game I had a code for it, I was making it go to the computer, and then between periods after the game I could pinpoint whatever I wanted live. After that, I’d be making video sessions for the coaches and the team, and highlight reel sessions,” he said.

For as long as he can remember, Clemens has been interested in hockey.

“My dad always played hockey, and we always loved hockey, so, my older brother and I started playing hockey at the exact same time, we’re two years apart, and we just loved hockey,” Clemens said.

“We both wanted to be goalies, but we were told to start as a player for one year and then see where that takes you. The next year we started as goalies,” he added.

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Clemens aspires to work in hockey as a full time job some day – Photo by Spencer Colby

Although growing up and playing hockey gave Clemens the chance to fall in love with the sport, it also came with some instances of being forgotten at rinks by his parents.

“I was always in the arena, so much so that I was watching games and my parents would forget me at the rink sometimes because I’m just standing at the glass watching all the games. It happened three times. Luckily, two of the times were in Clarence, which is where we live, and all the parents knew who I was, so I was just standing at the glass watching hockey,” Clemens said.

“And then I looked around and I was like, ‘hey, where did my parents go’, and they’re like, ‘oh, I’m pretty sure they left like 45 minutes ago’, so I was like, ‘okay, do you mind calling them please.’ I was probably nine years old at that point,” he added.

Aside from working part time with the Ravens, Clemens also works full time at the Department of National Defence.

“Right now, I’m doing classification which is how a job gets created and what the description of the job is. But now I’m moving to labor relations. I get to deal with grievances, and unions, and people who have issues with their job or people around their job,” he said.

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As part of his equipment manager job, Clemens looks up creative ways to stack the pucks in a pyramid prior to warm ups – Photo by Derek Clemens

Clemens also plays beer league hockey in his spare time.

“Last year I played over 80 games around the city and in a few tournaments. So, I was doing all those games, working with Carleton, and I had my full-time job, so I wasn’t around the house very much. Right now, I’m playing out in Manotick with the Ravens former equipment manager, Christopher Ward,” he said.

Clemens first began working with the women’s hockey team four years ago, in 2016-17. When he began working with them, he was still in school. A large part of his being hired by the team was due to being best friends with than captain of the team, Guindon.

“I’d sit with her step dad in the crowd and then at one point, after we’d talked at so many games, he said, ‘are you ever interested in working in hockey, or coaching, or anything’, and that’s always been the plan, and he says, ‘alright, maybe I’ll bring you on a couple scouting trips with me, I’ll see what Pierre thinks,’” Clemens said.

“And then he approached Pierre, and apparently, he was looking for a video coach. So he was like ‘hey, you want to be a video coach instead’, and I’m like, ‘okay’, and he’s like, ‘alright, just come on this trip to Kingston with me and you’ll do the ride up with Pierre and then you guys can chat and get to know each other, and he’ll probably offer you the job by the end of the road trip,’” he added.

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Lat year, Clemens was the video coach for the Ravens, but this year, he has moved a little closer to the bench – Photo by Spencer Colby

Since then, Clemens has steadily been working for the Ravens.

As team equipment manager, Clemens’ tasks involve coming in after team practices to take care of equipment.

“Generally, with work, I get here by the end of practice. So, when they’re all done, I have my two helpers bring the stuff to the laundry, and afterwards, everyone who wants their skates sharpened has their stuff set out,” Clemens said.

“I sharpen all those skates, and I go through the sticks to see if everyone has their stick. Sometimes they break it and don’t tell me, so I find out my own way and I go around, I pick up some garbage, I set out tape for the next day, just tidy things up as they leave,” he added.

Clemens also has tasks on game day, which start prior to the game and end when the game is over.

“Usually I’d be going through the dressing room picking up all the bottles and emptying and filling them back up, making sure everyone’s skates are sharpened. And I have helpers on game day. So, I have two of the players that help me set up the dressing room. They put the jerseys and socks out. I also have to take the tape out and set it up for the players, make sure no one has anything broken,” Clemens said.

“And as warmups happen, I set up the sticks on the bench, set up the bench behind the bench for the coaches, I do my little pyramid of pucks,” he added.

During the game, Clemens’ work involves standing on the bench and watching for any equipment mishaps.

“On the bench, I have my fanny pack with tape, scissors, I have the sweet-stick for skates, and I have all that ready with me in case someone needs something fixed quickly. If someone breaks a stick on the ice, I have to notice who breaks it and I have to look at the pile of sticks. I always put them in number order from left to right so that it’s easy to pinpoint,” Clemens said.

“Fun fact, the first game, five minutes into the game, someone broke a stick, and I grabbed a stick fast enough and I gave it back to them right away without hesitation. But if they need their skates sharpened quickly, I have the machine set up right behind me so I can fix that up right away or between periods,” he added.

On road trips, Clemens is tasked with making sure all the equipment is accounted for and packed under the bus in ample time.

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Clemens sharpening a skate during the Ravens game on Oct. 25 against Concordia – Photo by Spencer Colby

“I have to make sure we’re bringing my whole case with all the tape, saws, extensions, laces, everything. So, I have to make sure we have enough for that game, make sure everything is in there, and scissors. And then I have to pack up my sharpening machine, I have to bring that too. I have to pack up all the bottles. I have my two crates, I have to make sure everyone put theirs in, and then if they don’t, I have to chase them down, make sure they have their bottle,” Clemens said.

“The sticks as well. I take out the stick bag, and they all put their own sticks in, but before we leave I always make sure whose sticks are left there, and if people are playing and their sticks are still there then I have to pack them in and then remind them that they forgot,” he added.

Clemens is also in charge of his video coordinator role for road trips as well.

“I also have to make sure all the video stuff comes with us. I have to make sure the camera is all charged, we have the SD card, we have the tripod, we have the projector, we have the laptop, we have the laptop plug, check to make sure all those things are packed as well, and I bring those on the bus myself,” he said.

In terms of the future, Clemens aspires to one day be a general manager in the NHL, AHL, or any major junior league.

“But a little more realistically would be as a scout for any team. Right now, I’m doing part of that, but it would be really cool to be able to do that as a full-time job.”

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Clemens has been working with the Ravens women’s hockey team since 2016 – Photo by Jeff Pelletier

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