By Matt Malonowski
READING, Pa. – The knock on the door was loud and urgent, almost as if there was a 10-alarm blaze in the locker room. But Russ Holden didn’t so much as bat an eye, and with a deliberate calmness the Reading Royals’ equipment manager went to see about the pressing situation.
Before the door was halfway open, the voice behind those rapid knocks uttered, “I need socks.” Then, after the briefest of pauses, came, “And a jersey.”
Holden is at Royals practice each and every day. He is on the bench each and every game. And although he doesn’t call out line changes, work the phones for trades or take the ice to deliver a big hit or score a big goal, Holden is a vital cog in keeping the Royals’ engine running smoothly.
From fixing gear to sharpening skates to setting up the locker rooms to doing laundry to looking after ticket requests, Holden’s days are jam-packed with duties. A typical game day finds him at the rink from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.
And there aren’t many who are better than Holden, who will work the 2005 Coors Light ECHL All-Star Game at the Sovereign Center.
“I haven’t been around a guy who is as good as he is,” Royals coach Derek Clancey said. “He is very thorough and particular about things. I rely on him a lot.
“I know when I leave the room that the next time I come in things are going to be ready to go. All the guys are taken care of and for a coach it is very peaceful to know those kinds of things are not a concern.”
There’s more than knowing his team will be taken care of that puts Clancey’s mind at ease. While a lot of Clancey and Holden’s relationship revolves around hockey, the two share a chemistry away from the rink, as well.
When asked, both said without hesitation, “Yeah, we are good friends.”
Their relationship started in 2000-01, when Clancey was coaching the Jackson Bandits. The previous year Holden was with Brandon of the Western Hockey League, where he worked as the equipment manager and helped out in medical areas.
Holden went to Jackson the following year and became Clancey’s right-hand man for the next three seasons.
The two split up last year, with Clancey coming to Reading and Holden going to Louisiana. But the two kept in close contact and spoke almost weekly. With things not going well for Holden in Louisiana, Clancey told him he would work things out for him in Reading.
They spent the summer together, played some golf and got things in order for this year.
Now, Holden keeps everything in order in the Royals’ locker room. He and Clancey also are roommates.
“I guess he likes the way I do things,” Holden said. “It’s like anything. When somebody likes the way you do something then they want to stick with you.
“I know what his needs are. There is a comfort factor there. He knows that things are going to get done, and that’s what I try to do. The biggest thing is keeping the players happy. We also are good friends and he helped me a lot with finding a place to live up here.”
“Russ has been a great friend to me in every way,” Clancey said. “There isn’t too much I haven’t discussed with him at some point, whether it’s hockey, business or personal. As a coach you have so much to worry about, but with Russ there is nothing to worry about. And that’s a very comforting thing.”