They are essential to a hockey team, working long hours in the shadows, far
from the spotlight. They aren’t household names. But no athlete who hits
the ice with skates on their feet and a stick in their hands will tell you
that their work is not appreciated. That their presence is not comforting.
Serge LeBlanc is one of those who makes sure players worry about nothing
other than their performance on the ice. As an equipment manager, he is a
master at setting up a dressing room. And the phrase " other related
duties" certainly applies.
"I know, for example, during a game, that I will have to change blades
because a player can be tougher with her blades than another,” he says. “I
think my job is to provide a personalized service to each player."
A proud Acadian from Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., and a resident of the
nearby village of Grande-Digue, LeBlanc has been involved with Team Canada
for over 20 years. The Université de Moncton equipment manager has never
hesitated to answer the Hockey Canada call, including twice at the
Olympic Winter Games (2018 and 2022) with Canada’s Women's Olympic Team and twice at the
IIHF World Junior Championship (2008 and 2011) with Canada’s National Junior Team.
LeBlanc spent 11 years (and almost 1,000 games) in the Quebec Major Junior
Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Moncton Wildcats. Along the
way, he has participated in various Hockey Canada and international events
with both men's and women's teams.
Since 2017, he has spent most of his time in arenas, on buses and in
airports across the country and around the world with Canada’s National
Women’s Team. A natural bon vivant, he has his own way of
contributing to the success of Team Canada.
"Serge is an extraordinary person," says goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens.
"You know that no matter what time you arrive at the arena, he's going to
be there. He's the first to come, last to go. He's always happy to see us
and he always wants to go the extra mile to make sure our lives are as
smooth as possible."
"When you see Serge, he puts a smile on your face," adds veteran forward
Brianne Jenner. "He's sort of like that fun uncle that everyone has in
their family. That's the way I think of Serge. He's just he's reliable but
a great time and just he fits in so well with the girls. He's one of the
A valued and respected mentor
LeBlanc is not the only one who takes good care of the players. Andrew
Davis joined him on the equipment staff this season, and the two are
teaming up again at the 2023
IIHF Women's World Championship in Brampton. Davis first met LeBlanc in December 2015, when Canada’s
National Women’s Under-18 Team played an exhibition game at Concordia prior
to 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship.
"It was the first time that I met anyone from Hockey Canada," recalls
Davis. "I was so impressed with how he worked."
Davis’ first official Hockey Canada appearance came at Canada’s
National Women's Under-18 Team selection camp in August 2016. He was able to learn from LeBlanc, who was
mentoring equipment managers ahead of a series against the United States.
"It was really the perfect experience to start with, because he was able to
focus on showing us the Hockey Canada standard, which is the highest
standard," notes Davis, a Hudson Heights, Que., native.
So how does LeBlanc go about mentoring the next generation of equipment
"I try to show them what helps me to stay effective and to answer their
questions," says the man known affectionately as Bayo in his home province.
"It's not that I think I'm better than anyone else, that’s absolutely not
it, but with my personality and the way I've acted, I've been able to learn
a way to operate that makes me effective."
A trusted confidant
If you ask Davis what LeBlanc is like behind the scenes, a smile comes to
"In any arena we went into [during the
Rivalry Series], in Canada or the U.S., he wanted to know people’s stories. He likes to
connect with people at the arena, the players and the staff. He's very
approachable. He has won at almost every level. I almost never hear him
talk about the wins, it's always about the people he's met along the way."
Desbiens agrees: "He knows everyone! I don’t think there’s anyone who
doesn’t know Serge. He’s very warm-hearted, jovial and spontaneous."
LeBlanc's interpersonal skills serve everyone on the team, including head
coach Troy Ryan, who frequently consults the dressing room veteran to help
"We did our first event together in 2006 [at the
World Under-17 Hockey Challenge]," says LeBlanc. We’ve known each other long enough that he trusts me to
ask any question and I’ll be honest with him. He can, for example, ask me
about the personality of the players as to whether they are a good fit
within the team or not."
His golden moment
Throughout his extensive experience in game, both domestically and abroad,
LeBlanc has made countless memories he will cherish. His favourite? He
"For sure, it's [winning an Olympic gold medal in] Beijing [with Canada’s
Women’s Olympic Team],” he says. “I could have retired at that point, and I
would have been happy with my career on the international stage. So,
there's no doubt that seeing these girls for four years and having to deal
with COVID and all that, the way they acted, trained and prepared, winning
that was definitely the highlight of my career."
But there’s one more that deserves a mention.
"A personal highlight for me was reaching the 100-game mark with Team
Canada in November 2021 in Finland,” LeBlanc says. “It was special to
experience that, too."
Special for him, but also for the players who got to be part of that
special night in the lead up to Beijing 2022.
"It was a very special moment," remembers Desbiens. "He’s very appreciated
in our locker room, someone that we like to have around the team. One
hundred games with the Canadian team, it’s really impressive. I'm sure he
has many more to go. Every time we invite him, he comes and he's always