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Hockey dreams spawned in a Creek

Meet Derek Clemens, the Carleton Ravens Women’s Hockey Assistant Program Manager.

His father, Arden Clemens, instilled in him and his three brothers the love and passion for the game of hockey that he, to this day, possesses. Born and raised in the small town of Clarence Creek, Derek and his brothers would spend their free time during the winter playing hockey on their backyard rink, in the rare instances they weren’t at the local arena.

Derek, the third born, had his older brothers and his father to look up to when it came to developing his style of play. Unfortunately, his younger brother Brent was used as a training tool during drills, which cost him a broken tooth on more than one occasion. Derek played as a goalie in his younger years, but made the switch to defence while playing AA for his three years of Midget hockey.

With hopes of playing at higher levels, a hip flexor injury at 18 years old lead to a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis that affected his sacroiliac joint (near the base of the spine, around the pelvic area).  With a combination of medication, physiotherapy, hard work, and lots of patience, he would go on to patrol the blue line for four years for the Junior C St-Isidore Eagles.

Having spent most of his life being a student of the game, a self described hockey nerd, he knew once his playing days were over he wanted to find a role behind the bench.

I usually find myself in an arena at least 5 days a week between September and March, either playing, watching or working hockey. I have always been known as the guy who knows too many stats and facts about hockey, and I keep learning every day. I love it… My only concern was where and how I would get started because I really didn’t want to start working with small kids.

In 2016, Derek’s childhood friend Tawnya Guindon was the Captain of the Carleton Ravens, and he would cheer her on at most of her home games. He would sit in the stands and talk with her stepfather, Corey, who was a scout for the team. Impressed with his hockey knowledge and keen eye for detail, Corey brought Derek to the attention of head coach Pierre Alain. As luck would have it, the team was in need of a video coach, and Derek was hired.

From the 2016-2017 season up until last year, Derek served as the video coach for the Ravens. Although only paid for his duties as a video coach, he would often spend many more hours at the rink, doing odd jobs and spending time with the coaches and scouts, all of whom possess vast amounts of hockey experience at the junior, professional or international level.

“I sometimes forget how incredible their past experiences are. The amount of knowledge they have and the quality of hockey players they have either coached or played with is crazy!… Seeing the systems, strategies and on the fly modifications for this team was an eye opener… Another thing I learned is the women’s game and how girls get recruited, and what we look for in a player and what happens after they graduate.”

Heading into the 2019-2020 season, the Ravens coaching and managerial staff had a few vacant spots to fill. Seeing a chance to diversify his resume, Derek accepted to take on the role of being an official team scout, remain the video coordinator, and become the equipment manager. This may seem like a lot of work, but for Derek, it’s an opportunity that could lead to bigger and better things in the hockey world.

I see myself more in a managerial role than a coaching role, and scouting is a great way to go for that. I don’t have a game plan for moving up, but hopefully I meet some interesting people while networking on my recruiting trips and that may open some doors.”

With the shiny new title of Assistant Program Manager, Derek is looking to do his part in bringing the Ravens back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-2013 season. The Ravens are hoping to build off of an impressive preseason, where the team compiled a record of 8 wins and 2 losses. They kick off their season against the University of Montreal Carabins on October 18th at the CEPSUM arena in Montreal.

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