Arizona Rubber

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Wilson content in Arizona after stellar run with NHL’s Kings


Denver Wilson seemingly had it all – a job with a successful NHL team and the chance to live in one of the most desirable locations in the world.

But it wasn’t enough for Wilson.

Just 10 days after the 2013-14 NHL season ended, a year that saw Wilson earn his second Stanley Cup ring as an assistant equipment manager with the Los Angeles Kings, he packed his bags and headed to the desert.

“I’m very happy with my career choice and coming back home,” said Wilson, who is now the pro shop assistant manager at Ice Den Chandler. “You get to have a life and sleep in your bed every night.
“It’s the little things in life that make me happy.”

It’s always been that way for Wilson, who was born in Prince Albert in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

A self-described “good ol’ Canadian boy,” Wilson grew up on a farm around horses and enjoys team roping, in which two people combine to rope a steer.

Back in 2008, Wilson spent a year at a Canadian broadcast school hoping to become a hockey announcer. His plans changed when he was hired as an equipment manager for the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League halfway through the 2009 season.

After 18 months with the team, Wilson’s skills took him to the American Hockey League, where he joined the staff of the Houston Aeros. The minor-league affiliate of the Minnesota Wild, the Aeros were coached by Mike Yeo, who is now the Wild head coach.

A quick riser up the ranks, Wilson’s big break came in 2011 when he joined the Kings. The first season in Los Angeles was a magical campaign as the Kings squeaked into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, only to catch fire in the postseason and win their first Stanley Cup.

“That first year in 2012, we just couldn’t believe it was happening,” Wilson said. “We popped into eighth place and before you know it, you win a couple series, the Western Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup. You don’t even know how to process that. Those type of chances don’t come around often.”

The 2012 playoff run was personal to Wilson as the Kings beat the then-Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals. The head equipment manager for the Coyotes is Wilson’s father, Stan.
“We put aside that rough and emotional series,” Wilson said. “He was there when we won the Cup and it was great to have him there.”

Lightning struck twice for the Kings two years later when Los Angeles captured yet another Cup.

When asked if his arrival in Southern California played a part in the beginning on the franchise’s championship run, Wilson could only laugh.

“I played a very small role,” Wilson said. “We’re just lucky to be part of a great team.”

Despite the success, the long nights of prepping gear for the road or doing laundry or sharpening skates had worn Wilson down. He had seen how his own father had to miss special occasions because he was on the road or at work.

“(The job) was never unnoticed,” Wilson said. “The players know how valuable we are and they know we’re more than equipment managers, but I’ve seen what my dad has had to give up in 26 years. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give some of that up.”

Wilson now works part-time with the Coyotes, helping out on game nights. The majority of his time is spent at Ice Den Chandler.

Engaged to be married in December, Wilson said he simply enjoys helping people pick out the correct skates or find the right hockey gear.

“Hockey in Arizona has been great to my family,” Wilson said. “I feel like I can really give back to the sport.

“This is home to my mother and father and my sister and me. This is where I want to raise my kids.”

— Eric Smith

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