Bryan Boyes has served as equipment manager for Canada’s National Junior Team at six IIHF World Junior Championships.
The team has won a medal every time.
Now Boyes is back this year sharpening skates, setting up dressing rooms and looking after laundry as Canada looks to add No. 32 to its all-time medal count. The equipment manager and athletic trainer for the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League was with Canada when it won gold in 1996, 2005, 2006 and 2009; silver in 1999; and bronze in 2012.
“We do this job because we love it and it’s fun,” he says. “But it’s a huge honour to represent your country every time you get selected to go with the National Junior Team. It’s the ultimate goal at the end of the day.”
During the event Boyes, who shares the job this year with Serge Haché of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques, is up at 6 a.m. and off to the rink. Repairing skates, unloading cube vans and unpacking equipment bags will all be done before that morning’s practice or pre-game skate.
It’s his job, says Boyes, to make the players’ job easier. “All we want them to do is show up and play and let us worry about everything else.” (Back in 1996 that “everything else” included a midnight phone call, a contact’s company Christmas party and the immediate delivery of a new pair of skates for one of the players.)
It’s also his job to learn the players’ idiosyncrasies. Three times that was easy, when Oshawa players Bryan Allen (1999), John Tavares (2009) and Boone Jenner (2012) joined him on Canada’s National Junior Team. Otherwise, there’s a getting-to-know-you phase.
“Players all have their little quirks on how they like things,” says Boyes. “Some guys, say, like stuff dried better than other guys. They all know what they want when they get here.”
Boyes certainly didn’t foresee himself getting here – his seventh World Juniors – when, at age 14, he joined the Generals as the team’s stick boy. He’s now the longest-tenured equipment manager in the OHL, has won a Memorial Cup and been inducted into the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame in the builder category.
Among the championships he’s helped win and honours he’s received, Boyes has collected some one-of-a-kind mementos. While most people collect jerseys or pucks from events, Boyes has a goalie mask painted and autographed to commemorate the cities the World Juniors have taken him to. The mask from 2012, for instance, has a mountain and horse on one side for Calgary, with an oil rig and the skyline of Edmonton on the other.
“It’s just something that when you look at it, you remember instantly where the tournament was and it brings back memories of that team.”
Boyes has spent his holidays in cities across Canada and the northern United States; he’ll be much closer to home this year – but no more closer to staying in his own house.
“This sounds kind of funny, but it really doesn’t matter where (the event) is,” says Boyes, who lives in Whitby, Ont., just east of Toronto. “It’s nice to be so close to home, but we go from the hotel to the rink anyways, so it really doesn’t matter whether it’s Vancouver or Toronto.”
One family member can definitely relate. Son Michael spent nine seasons as his dad’s assistant in Oshawa, and is now in his first year as the equipment manager for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. And like dad, he’s worn the red and white for Team Canada, having been selected for the last two World Under-17 Hockey Challenges.
“I wouldn’t say I give advice,” says the elder Boyes, “but we always talk about situations that arise. We learn from each other.”
And, maybe, by the time the Generals take the ice in Sault Ste. Marie on Jan. 4, 2015, Boyes will be in Toronto, poised to have a hand in another World Juniors medal for Team Canada.