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Father's Day Equipped with Wilson Connection

Father-Son duo at home in Coyotes locker room

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Not many kids get to do their homework in an NHL locker room.

Coyotes assistant equipment manager Denver Wilson did. Now, in his 30s, Wilson began working game nights for his dad, Stan in 1998, when he was 11 and still in middle school. The opportunity came with one, strict condition: good grades. 

"My dad would always say, 'You can work for me, but you have to keep your grades up,'" said Denver Wilson, whose duties, back then, included folding towels and filling water bottles."

Today, on Father's Day, Denver Wilson and father Stan, Coyotes head equipment manager, are the only father-son equipment duo in the NHL.

Read: Equipment Chronicles -- Part I | Part II | Part III

"I would get all my (pre-game duties) done and during the periods, while the (Coyotes) were playing, I would be back in the locker room doing my homework, studying for tests and so forth," he explained. "And when the team came back off the ice into the dressing room, I'd get back to work."

The father-son locker room bond began years before, in Winnipeg, shortly after Stan Wilson accepted an equipment manager job with the Jets in 1990. Stan Wilson has been at that post for the franchise since that time.

"I can remember helping out my dad before school whenever I could," Denver said. "I would go to the rink with my dad on the weekends every chance I could get, whether it was during the season or the off-season. I was always trying to go with him."

Times were a bit different, back then, Stan Wilson said. 

"In those days, there were more kids around the rink," he said. "Players brought their kids; everybody always had their kids around. So, Denver was always there. He just came to the rink all the time. He worked the visiting room and the home room; he just kind of grew up around the rink." 

Any type of hockey career requires time away from home. (Think long road trips.) Stan Wilson embraced the time spent at work with his son. 

"We're so busy," Stan Wilson said. "You don't get a lot of time with your kids in the winters. So, it was two-fold. I got to spend some time with him and I got some help from him, also. 

"When he was a little guy, it was nice to have that time and have him around because you're gone all the time. As time went on, he developed the skills needed for the job, and then it became a huge help. That father-son bond through work, it's great." 

Denver continued his game-night duties with the Coyotes when the Jets moved to Arizona. And through high school and community college, too. He sharpened -- pun intended -- his craft working at the pro shop at Ice Den Scottsdale. He was eventually hired by the Central Hockey League's Arizona Sundogs. 

"By the time I was 21, I got the call to go to the SunDogs," he said. "After that, I went to the Houston Aeros (in the American Hockey League), and then from that I went to the LA Kings. I was with the Kings from 2011-14. I was there for two Stanley Cups." 

The first Stanley Cup, in 2012, was bittersweet for the Wilson family. Denver's Kings defeated Stan's Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals.

"Number one (moment for me) is the 2012 Stanley Cup," Denver Wilson said. "My parents were able to come onto the ice with me and celebrate. My dad was in the crowd. It was just pretty cool to have him there, even after we beat the Coyotes the series before. It just showed how much he cared about my path and my success." 

Denver admits that Western Conference Finals series was tough on him, even though he was on the victor's side. It was the closest Stan Wilson had come to hoisting the Cup in his 30-plus year NHL career.

"I was working for the team that was playing against the Coyotes, basically the team that's put the bread and butter on my family's table for years," Denver Wilson said. "I've always been a Coyotes fan growing up, and I still am today. It was tough working for another team, hoping they would get more success than I might." 

Stan Wilson also was quick to recall Denver's 2012 Stanley Cup when recollecting on his fondest memories with his son.

"One of the good -- but hard -- memories was going on the ice when he won the Stanley Cup with the LA Kings," Stan Wilson said. "They beat us out that year. It was a great moment for him, a tough moment for me. But out there on the ice, I was so proud of him. Being involved in all that, it was great."

Stan Wilson fondly remembers, too, the 2007 IIHF World Championship, in which he won a gold medal with Team Canada as the head equipment manager. Denver, then a teen, tagged along for that. (Shane Doan was on that team, too).

"That was a huge time, and a great experience for him and me, to have him there. He ended up helping us work it, and he actually got a gold medal, so it was a great experience."

After three seasons with the Kings, and a second Stanley Cup, Denver returned home to the Valley for a reset, and took a year off from work.

Reflecting on his time with the Kings, Denver said: "Living in California was a big adjustment for a country boy like myself. I needed to get back home and get back to my roots." 

Denver took a year off, then applied for Coyotes assistant equipment manager role prior to the 2015-16 season. He just finished his sixth season in that role. 

"We have a great staff here," Stan Wilson said. "Jason (Rudee) and Tony (Silva), they work well with him. I'm sure it's an interesting situation for them to work with your boss's son, but they've been great. Those guys have known him their whole life, pretty much. Those guys have been here forever. So, we have a really good relationship all the way around. It's fun, we make our own fun with our own group, and he's part of that. So, it's good."

Denver has additional reason to celebrate Father's Day himself, this year. He and his wife, Kalie, welcomed their second child, a boy, Bear, June 7. Bear is their second; Denver and Kaylie have a toddler daughter, Wynter.

"Being a father is one of the greatest privileges in the world," Denver said.

Added Stan: "As we all know, it's the greatest thing that can ever happen to you."

Except maybe being able to work together, too.

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Lead Photo Courtesy: Denver Wilson // Second Photo Credit: NHL Pictorial // Third Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Fourth Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Fifth Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes

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