The quiet solitude of an empty room and the dull hum of the fluorescent lights which engulf the space hours before the much anticipated arrival of the team.
In the quiet moments they often reflect upon the hours of preparation at home and away.
The glue of any team take pride in the precision needed to set up the room taking into consideration every player’s nuances and tendencies to ensure maximum performance.
The equipment manager’s importance and impact is often overlooked and underestimated by those outside of the game.
As a conduit between coach and players, the equipment manager is often summoned to gauge the pulse of the room.
The most trusted ally of the players, the role of the equipment manager is truly diverse.
From fixing an insurmountable equipment problem at a moment’s notice, to having in-depth conversations with players behind the scenes, to subtle motivational techniques, a veteran equipment manager’s impact will resonate on and off the ice.
For the veteran equipment manager the dressing room is their sanctuary, their second home; first to arrive, last to leave.
That’s life and they wouldn’t change it for the world.
On December 17, 2019 Serge LeBlanc will be right at home, behind the scenes, where he belongs figuratively and literally.
LeBlanc will on the bench for the first time at the Avenir Centre doing the job he loves with Team Canada as they take on their arch rivals the USA for the Rivalry Series.
“It’s just awesome,” confessed LeBlanc.
“I never would have thought of having another “home” game again after I left the Wildcats in 2011,” LeBlanc said proudly.
“Personally, it is very special and I’m so glad that the Greater Moncton area and region has a chance to witness these awesome athletes.”
LeBlanc’s journey in the game is the stuff movies are made of.
“I loved hockey, but I never played the game,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc’s introduction into the hockey world started as a timekeeper.
From die hard volunteer to equipment expert, his journey has come full circle back to where it all started.
“After being a student manager with Les Aigles Bleus, I was approached by the Wildcats in 1999 to join them,” explained LeBlanc.
“I found a passion outside of playing on the ice, but it came time to take a decision that I wanted to have a better family life,” LeBlanc said of his departure from the Wildcat and the QMJHL.
LeBlanc’s “wild ride” with the Cats calumniated in two President Cup Championships in 2006 and 2010.
“The reality of my job is very grueling during the season. I am very fortunate to get involved with the women’s national teams because I do miss my old job a little bit,” admitted LeBlanc.
“It is in my blood,” LeBlanc said proudly.
“These short stints are a perfect scenario for me.”
Representing his team and country is definitely in his blood, but like all the great equipment managers LeBlanc’s presence is always felt behind the scenes.
LeBlanc’s international resume really speaks for itself.
Nevertheless, the quiet soft spoken humble Boutouche, New Brunswick product will never take his journey and role in the game for granted.
“My journey has been truly remarkable,” said LeBlanc.
“I still have no clue how lucky I am to have been able to have these experiences.”
LeBlanc’s career highlight is without a doubt the 2018 Olympic Games, but he also has 4 World Championships and in all 85 international games behind a Team Canada bench.
“It was the biggest event in the sporting world,” LeBlanc said of his Olympic Games experience.
“I remember telling Troy Ryan just before puck drop in the first game that it was crazy being there at that very moment.”
“The road to those games were not easy, but worth it.”
“I saw how much commitment it takes for these athletes to get to the Gold Medal game. It is by far the most impressive thing that I have ever witnessed, and that is why, seeing these athletes after that final game, it was also the most difficult situation in my sporting experience I had to witness,” explained LeBlanc.
One can only imagine the devastation and disappointment that the Women’s team felt in that moment.
“I felt so bad for them as I knew first hand the time and passion they all put in for that moment.”
The rivalry will never go away and that continues with the introduction of the Rivalry Series and it’s stop at the Avenir Centre.
“These events, by far helped me get better on the logistical side of the job. I wish people would see the planning to host these events, it’s really unbelievable,” LeBlanc said.
Through it all LeBlanc has stayed grounded and true to himself.
“My most important goal in life, not only my job, is to be a good person. Treat everybody right.”
“In some ways, I do think it is one biggest factor why they keep asking me back.”
“It’s the biggest compliment getting that call again. It means you did something right.”
When it comes to the game and his role within LeBlanc has done it all the right way.
The relationships and friendships have lasted a lifetime and that’s what makes his next home game so special.
“I have been really lucky because I have met some wonderful athletes and staff during my time.”
“Funny to say, but they are normal people like us, but they have a gift and they work so hard to achieve their goals in the game that they love.”
“I just do my job as best I can and try to stay out of their way,” admitted LeBlanc who is leaving today to get everything ready for the team’s preparation and lead up to the game on the 17th.
“It is amazing how lucky I have been in the last twenty plus years in hockey.”
“I owe everything to the game for the career I have had and I guess, still have.”
So what can people expect from the Rivalry Series?
“People are going to be impressed by the speed and the structure of these athletes. These two teams know each other so well and every game that I was a part against USA were all exciting.”
“This one should not disappoint either.”
LeBlanc believes the Rivarly Series will be another great chapter in the cities hockey history, but more importantly it will be another showcase and effort to grow the game for the next generation of young girls to fulfill their dreams in the game.
“It is unbelievable to see them, as a unit, help the women’s game grow.”
“It is hard to imagine seeing another group of dedicated athletes like them pursue a long-term future for their game. Giving a reason for young girls to have a dream of maybe playing hockey as a career.”
The quiet solitude of an empty room and the dull hum of the fluorescent lights is still a familiar sound for Serge LeBlanc.
He wouldn’t change it for the world.
In the rare quiet moments LeBlanc continues to reflect on his journey and place in the game helping the games elite fulfill their dreams while inspiring others to do the same.
The man behind the scenes, the glue any team continues to cherish his role in representing his hometown and his country.