Tyringe, Sweden
I sit down at a vacant table in the cafeteria in Tyrs Hov, home arena for Tyringe Hockey who are playing in Sweden´s third league HockeyEttan, here I will soon meet Noel Franzén. 13 years old and the country’s youngest equipment manager in Swedish ice hockey.

I have prepared myself well for the meeting with Noel. The computer is in front of me on the table, the sound recording on the mobile is ready, now I just have to wait for him.

Into the cafeteria comes a young guy in Tyringe’s training suit. He introduces himself
– Noel, he says with a south Swedish dialect in Sweden called ”Skånska”.

Photo by: Jonathan Persson | Swe Press Photo

Through a window we can see Noel´s team that warm up for today’s game against Borås HC. Noel looks around all the players, everything seems to be in order.

He has been in Tyrs Hov since 10 am. There is a lot to be prepared before face off. Skates should be sharpened, sticks must be taped, the match sets to be made in order, water bottles to be filled. I quickly understand that it is a tough job he has.

Started out as a nine year old

His career as a equipment manager began at the age of nine, when big brother Felix Franzén played in Tyringe’s U16 team. There and then, nine years old, he filled the team’s water bottles.
– Yes, I helped out a bit there with the water bottles. I was at many home games and also went on away games to, for example, Linköping and Mjölby.

When Noel’s big brother moved to play for Växjö Lakers’ junior team, Noel took the opportunity, as an eleven-year-old, to sneak into Tyringe’s A-team in HockeyEttan.
– I looked a lot at Peter ”Udden” Uddgren and Staffan Svensson (equipment manager in Tyringe’s A-team) and I asked Staffan if I could join in and help a little, and they thought it went well.

Photo by: Jonathan Persson | Swe Press Photo

During the games there is no doubt that the tempo is high ! Even during the period breaks, it is important to prepare quickly for the next period.
– I’m always around the sticks. If a stick breaks during the game, it is my job to quickly reach out with a new one. Then it is important to keep track of which stick belongs to whom. Everything must be in order. The water bottles should be filled, towels should be hung out. It also happens that a few skates may need sharping. It’s a high tempo!

When we sat and talked for a while and went beyond all time, it came as a flash from a clear sky. Noel reacts and flies up from the chair ..
– It is game warm up in 30 minutes. I have to sharpen a few skates before that!

”He is really smart”

We go down to the room where the equipment manager are located. Inside, I meet Noel’s colleagues, Peter ”Udden” and Staffan. Noel runs away and will pick up the skates to be sharped. I feel the need to ask the colleagues how Noel got into the gang. ”Udden” answers the question directly.
– He entered the team some years ago now. He is really smart, he sees everything we do and then he does it himself. He does exactly what we do!

Noel comes in with a pair of skates in his hands. The sharpening is a crucial step for the player to be able to perform fully on the ice.
– I sharpening my first skates when I was 10 years old. Then I got help from the junior team equipment manager, now I do everything myself. It is very important that everything gets right. You know, players want their skates sharpened why differently. Some want a deeper sharpening and some less deep. You have to keep track of what kind the players want to have. This are Melles (Melker Persson, player in Tyringe) skates.

Melker Persson walks in and confirms this, with a short and definite answer while receiving his newly skated skates.
– Noel is going to sharpen my skates. He’s doing really well!

It is time to warm up and we are heading towards the booth. Here everything is already prepared, pucks are neatly placed on the edge of each team, the towels hang on the bench in the exchange box, the water bottles are stacked in their compartments.

I look out over Tyrs Hov and can see in the corner of my eye that the teams are on there way out on the ice. It’s now time for Noel to do another job. Hockey sticks need to be carried and sorted out in the booth.

Photo by: Jonathan Persson | Swe Press Photo

During the game there is full activity in the booth. While Noel is checking the far door to let players in and out, he can suddenly hear someone shouts ”Number 17, New stick!!” The focus on the booth door is quickly changed to the neatly arranged sticks. The stick is quickly picked up and handed over to the right player who can in turn continue his game.

One game is not like a other game. In the first period break a stick is needed to be taped, a helmet to be adjusted, the water on the floor from the melted ice to be scraped away, the water bottles to be filled, the towels to be changed.

One of the coaches is a teacher!

It will usually be very late evenings after game day, everything should be cleaned and things should be put in order, match dresses and underwear should be washed.

In addition to taking care of the practical parts of the team, the school should also need to work. The school work is nothing that Noel is sloppy with. There is good support from both the players but also the team’s assistant coach André Reimer who works in the school world. Noel is also aware of the importance of all this.
– School is no problem. I usually study on the bus if we are going on long trips, so it works fine.. and about all the cleaning around the team i have told everyone that they cant tell my parents about it, then i have to start doing washing at home as well!

Noel’s future plans are big, he are dreaming to develop as a equipment manager and like many hockey players’ goal, be able to climbing to the highest divisions.
– When I leave school, I want to work as a full-time equipment manager . It’s a really fun job and you always get to meet a lot of people and have nice conversations. My goal is to reach all the way to SHL, Växjö Lakers maybe.

Photo by: Jonathan Persson | Swe Press Photo

When the audience from the game in Tyrs Hov leaves the arena, the equipment managers begin to complete the final tasks of the day. Before I shake Noel´s hand and say goodbye, I ask the question i been thinking about since i meet Noel before the game.

You were born in 2006 and are Sweden’s youngest equipment manager in Swedish senior ice hockey, is that something you ever reflected on?
– Of course, being the youngest equipment manager in the country is a lot of fun, you become a bit of an idol to some outside the hockey world. People in the village often ask if I really can be in the dressing room and if I can stand in the booth during the games. etc. I just want to show that it is not only adults who can be equipment manager but also young as long as they are interested.

Text: Jonathan Persson