TROY, NY — Scott Clemmensen began his professional hockey career in Albany, NY, so it only seems natural that the next stage in his professional career should begin in the Capital Region as well. On June 30, the New Jersey Devils named Clemmensen to the position of goaltending development coach.
“I think it was something that we were looking at or thinking about last year,” Head Coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We knew there was a possibility that [Johan] Hedberg wouldn’t be coming back. I think it was something that I proposed or wanted to offer to him if it was something he wanted to do.”
Clemmensen went 12-11-2 with a 2.23 GAA and a .918 save percentage in 27 games with Albany last year. And although he played well, Kowalsky knew that he might be looking to make a change.
“At the end of year,” Kowalsky said. “we kind of thought this would be a good fit if he was going to retire, just because of how he carries himself and the relationship we had here in the past.”
In truth, Clemmensen had been thinking about his future, and what it would hold, for some time.
“I think as your career progresses and as you get older and your family expands and your kids get older, obviously, you start thinking about what you’re going to do in your post-playing career,” Clemmensen noted. “So it’s been a couple of years now that I’ve explored different avenues.”
“It’s good to have him around,” Danis said. “He’s been around, he knows the game. It’s good to know that he is watching. Sometimes when you’re playing you’re not realizing that you might be doing something that’s out of the ordinary. So it’s good to have him there and noticing those little details.”
“Obviously he gets it,” Danis added. “He did the same thing that I’ve been doing.”
It’s that relatability that has helped him early in his coaching career.
“He’s been around,” Kowalsky said. “He’s been in the minors. He’s played for numerous NHL teams. He’s been the number one guy and he’s been an obvious backup. I think those experiences really help mold you as a coach. A guy who plays his whole career as a superstar maybe can’t relate to the fourth liners or tough guys. I think it helps in the sense that you can relate to a lot of things and have seen a lot of things in your career.”
Clemmensen was quick to echo those sentiments.
“I think that the road that I traveled was very winding and filled with peaks and valleys and ups and downs. I feel like I went through so much as a player that now I can relate to some of these guys regardless of their age, their experience level, and where they are at in their development. Hopefully, I can help them navigate those waters and get to where they want to be.”
Clemmensen and Wedgewood, who were teammates last season, have continued to develop their relationship that began a year ago.
“It kind of started last year for the two of us,” Clemmensen said. “Even right from the beginning when I first met him, because we got along so well, we would talk in such a way that he was kind of hungry for knowledge and I wanted to help him and give back. It wasn’t that unusual of a transition because it goes back to last year when we were both playing together.”
“I came down and worked with him early in the summer,” Wedgewood added. “We get along really well and he knows what’s expected of me and me of him. Last year, when we were struggling he would say something and when we were winning he would also say something. He helped us out a lot last year in a growing situation and so far this year he’s continued right where he left off.”
Kowalsky agreed that the transition from player to coach has gone about as smoothly as possible.
“Players like Clemmensen, they are really an extension of the coaching staff while they’re playing. I think that transition from last year to this year, for both of us, has been seamless. He’s done a good job, he’s really embraced it and he’s certainly been a welcome addition to our staff.”
This is not to say that Clemmensen’s switch to coaching hasn’t had its challenges.
“Scheduling,” Clemmensen commented. “I always just kind of lived and died with the schedule. It comes out and that’s it, and that was all you had to worry about. Now I have 10 different schedules and people to see and trying to scout this guy who plays in this league and that league. That’s been the biggest adjustment for sure.”
In the end, Clemmensen can appreciate how all of the twisting and turning roads that he has been down have led him here.
“I still get paid to be involved in a kid’s game,” he said. “I said that as a player and that still rings true now. I feel very fortunate.”
As Ernest Hemingway wrote, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Scott Clemmensen’s journey as a coach is just beginning, and it’s a journey he is very much looking forward to.