Beyond the Skates: Nick Meldrum’s impact on Denver Hockey

Nick Meldrum ensured that two vintage red stadium chairs be transmitted into this newly revamped office that was included as part of the renovations for the Denver hockey locker room. Through the years, the chairs have remained the same despite some chipped paint here and there, but have ultimately served as means to help foster a tight-knit community. Everyone from Jason Zucker, to David Carle, to Will Butcher to Henrik Borgström to Ian Mitchell and everyone in between, has sat in those chairs to chat with Meldrum about just about everything.

For 10 seasons, Meldrum has occupied the equipment position at the University of Denver and recently became the Director of Equipment Room Operations where he oversees all 17 varsity programs. While Meldrum’s duties consist of sharpening, maintaining and repairing equipment, monitoring inventory, doing laundry, and logging innumerable hours, his role with the team extends so much further than his work-room.

“Whether we shared laughs, had more serious conversations, it’s all part of the job,” Meldrum said. “We’re a family here at Denver. If I can help the guys out in any way, I’m here for them whether it’s equipment, life advice or anything.”

Meldrum stumbled upon the occupation as a student at Lake Superior State where he graduated in 2007. He grew up in Michigan and was exposed to the sport, but wasn’t as familiar with the intricacies of being a professional equipment manager. Meldrum served as a student assistant at Lake Superior State before taking a two-year position with the National Team Development Program.

And yet no matter how experienced Meldrum is with the duties, he quickly learned that the occupation always presents unforeseeable situations.

“That’s one thing that’s great about this job; every day is different in its own way,” Meldrum said. “Yeah, you’re going to have practice, but you never know what’s going to happen. Guys break sticks, guys break skate blades, laces get cut, showing up to an out of town game without sticks, whatever, you never know what’s going to come. It keeps things interesting. A lot of it is shooting from the hip and learning as you go.”

It doesn’t take more than a minute to feel the passion that Meldrum radiates and it certainly doesn’t take more than a glance to observe Meldrum’s diligence and perfection with his craft.

“Not only does he connect with our student-athletes, but when guys come back to campus the first person they want to go see is Nick,” coach Carle said. “I think that speaks volumes for his ability to connect and create relationships. Even with older alumni…He’s very detailed and cares highly about his craft and what he does. There’s no stone left unturned with him. When it comes to the players’ equipment and apparel he’s very thoughtful with every decision. It’s what makes him really good.”

This past winter, Meldrum had the opportunity to rejoin his staff from the National Team Development Program as equipment manager for the 2019 World Junior Championships. From Dec. 26-Jan. 5 Meldrum left for the tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia where the U.S. would eventually win silver in the gold medal match against Finland.

“It was a grind,” Meldrum said with a contagious smile. “It’s a tough tournament. It’s a tough time schedule. It’s a lot of things happening in a short period of time. I was gone from the team here and my family for 26 days. It was a fantastic experience. Losing in the gold medal game was tough, I think for anyone who is even the slightest bit competitive. But I was honored to have helped win a silver medal for that group representing the United States. I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity.”

While Meldrum was honored to have represented Team U.S.A. at World Juniors, he was thrilled to return back to the college scene where he hopes to stay for as long as possible.

“I don’t know if there is another position out there than the support staff roles in athletics where you build these relationships with the guys,” Meldrum said. “You get these guys coming in here at 18 to 21-year old kids and get to see them evolve into men and having their own families and having their own individual successes. Whether that’s [success] playing professionally or in the real world. Those connections are something I definitely cherish as a part of this job.”

Throughout his tenure, Meldrum has cultivated invaluable relationships that continue even after graduation. Evan Ritt was a senior on the 2017 national championship team and now plays professionally in the Elite Ice Hockey League for the Guildford Flames in the UK. Two-years removed from his collegiate career, Ritt recognizes how integral and unique Meldrum’s role was.

“I feel like it’s one of the most thankless positions,” Ritt said. “It really took me until I left DU to realize just how much Nick did for us and how special of a time in my life that was. I don’t have the same kind of relationship with my equipment managers now as I do with Meldrum. [Meldrum] is someone that I’ll always keep in touch with and go back to see.”

From the very beginning, Meldrum was the perfect fit for the culture Denver looked to pursue when hiring for the job back in 2009. During the process, the university incorporated student-athletes into interviews. Coach Carle opportunity to sit in and immediately knew that Meldrum was the ideal candidate for the position.

“We really liked how committed Nick was to the success of the program,” coach Carle said. “You could tell he wanted to win just as bad as we did. It was more than a job to him. There was a passion behind it in the competitive culture that I think NCAA athletics is. That stood out to us.”

A decade later, Carle has come full-circle to take over the helm of Denver hockey and has witnessed the infinite contributions Meldrum has made to create a lasting imprint on the success and reputation of the program.

“He’s a great ambassador for the University of Denver and connecting people of the university through their interactions with him,” coach Carle said. “He does a lot more for the program and the university than people probably realize. We’re so fortunate to have him on our staff.”

2 thoughts on “Beyond the Skates: Nick Meldrum’s impact on Denver Hockey”

  1. It takes a certain kind of heroic patience as well as different sets of expertise for that job. You need a perfectionist’s mentality at all hours of the day and night. Equipment guys do so much more than the job description – they have to often walk a careful line between being a confidante of the players, which they must be, to a member of the coaching staff, which they also are. It’s almost totally unsung, but perhaps the backstage hub of a successful program…Good article, Sasha!

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