Ice Flyers Equipment Manager Jim Chesnut Reflects on his Career
May 18, 2023 – Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) – Pensacola Ice Flyers News Release
“Have you ever seen a horse in the locker room?”
After a pause and a brief chuckle, Ice Flyers Equipment Manager Jim Chesnut’s divulged the remainder of one of his fondest memories while working in professional hockey. Chesnut has been a regular fixture alongside Rod Aldoff on the Ice Flyers bench. The veteran equipment manager has had a long meandering career that has taken him to twelve teams across five leagues.
“People always ask me, what teams have you been with? My standard answer is, pick a team that’s gone out of business, and I’ve been there,” Chesnut grinned, “That’s how it is in minor league hockey.”
Chesnut is entering his 26th season in professional hockey. He started playing hockey and fell in love with the sport at the age of ten in Oklahoma. He was lucky enough to earn a couple of pro tryouts but unfortunately, couldn’t make the cut. This became the launching point for what would turn out to be a lifetime career.
“I found out really quick I would go way farther fixing and maintaining equipment than using it,” Chesnut said.
The hands-on nature of equipment management is what really spurred his passion. Before professional hockey, Chesnut spent time working in Sprint Car Racing and grew a skill in mechanical thinking. From custom fabrication to solving basic problems, Chesnut found the challenge of making something work for a specific player to be what fueled his career.
“I’ve always had a mechanical background, being involved in racing, it was always an R&D aspect. A lot of the stuff I do in hockey is outside the box. But it has a lot to do with my past in racing,” Chesnut said.
Chesnut’s storied career began while he was managing several sporting goods stores in his hometown of Oklahoma City. It was 1998 and Topeka was starting a new team in the Central Hockey League. Through a colleague’s recommendation, Chesnut received an invitation to become the equipment manager for the Topeka Scarecrows. In 2001, the Scarecrows folded catapulting Chesnut on his journey across professional hockey. He would call New Orleans, Quad City, and Kalamazoo home over the next three years before spending time in Lowell. In the late 2000s, Chesnut wound up back in his hometown with the Oklahoma City Blazers. After a hiatus to care for his ailing mother, Chesnut notched more stops in Augusta, Tulsa, and Mississippi. In the late 2010s, Chesnut landed in Norfolk and Jacksonville before picking up his current position in Pensacola.
“I always said if I came back to the SPHL, Pensacola would be my first choice. Because I knew how Greg ran the team and I knew how Rod ran the team.”
It was a journey that was honored on the ice this season with a special pregame ceremony celebrating Chesnut’s 1400th game. Right before puck drop, the team skated down to the goal and presented the unexpecting equipment manager with a special plaque commemorating his monumental achievement.
“It was a surprise, to get that recognition from the team and the whole organization, and another big surprise was guys from the other team coming over and congratulating me,” Chesnut recalled.
This wouldn’t be the last accolade Chesnut would receive this season. In early May, the SPHL announced Jim Chesnut as the Equipment manager of the year.
“It means a lot because it all comes from your peers. Which means I treated all my peers the way I should of, professionally, and they recognized that and said thank you. And to that, I say thank you,” Chesnut said.
Ice Flyers Head Coach Rod Aldoff was quick to praise the announcement.
“When think of a professional, it’s somebody who has great experience that’s a good person and great at what he does, I think Jim is that: a true professional. He is a big asset to our team, and we are lucky to have him,” Aldoff commented.
For Ice Flyers Owner Greg Harris there was no one better deserving than Chesnut.
“To have an Equipment Manager at the level such as Jim’s, it truly elevates our players’ experiences when playing for the Ice Flyers. He is an amazing asset to have and we’re proud of him and his recognition as the SPHL’s Equipment Manager of the Year.”
Pensacola is special to Chesnut, and one day may be the final stop of the journey. Upon accepting the Ice Flyers position he made sure to let Harris and Aldoff know his intentions. He found a place he could really settle down in.
“I told them this is where I want to end my Career. We love Pensacola. Hockey or not, we love Pensacola.”
Chesnut’s day-to-day life of sharpening skates, doing laundry, modifying equipment, sewing jerseys, tending to the visiting team, and preparing the players to take the ice stays tucked out of sight deep in the bowels of the Bay Center. But if you do ever have the pleasure to run into Jim, and he’s not too busy, make sure to ask him about the time he walked in to find a horse in his locker room.
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