NOTE: This feature appears in the Spring 2013 edition of the Team Canada Alumni Association newsletter
There isn’t enough space to list all of David Andrews’ accolades, but if there is anyone who bleeds hockey, it’s this man.
Besides his 19-year role as president and CEO of the American Hockey League, Andrews is one of the lead individuals who brought the Team Canada Alumni Association into existence.
His initial involvement with the national team was as director of the first under-17 program, then as head coach of the first national under-18 team – a group that included future Hall of Famers Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman.
The merger of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and Hockey Canada, with one logo and one look, has given Canadians something to rally around. Andrews praises Murray Costello, Dennis McDonald and Bob Nicholson for having the vision to take the organization and the Program of Excellence to the next level.
“Dave King is highly regarded, but I don’t think people really understand how important it was that his teams were successful. The success of his teams built the image of the World Juniors and support for the national team program. It helped bring everyone together. No one could forsee the success that Team Canada would have over the next 30 years, winning junior championships, an Olympic medal, and that women’s and sledge hockey national teams would be where they are.”
Enter 2012-13 and the NHL lockout, which impacted hockey from the grassroots level to the national team. This was the third one Andrews had been through during his time with the AHL. All of the lockouts have been an opportunity to grow his league.
In 1994-95, the presence of the AHL brand grew significantly with the exposure from television the league may not have gotten otherwise.
In 2004-05, it added great players like Jason Spezza, Ryan Miller and Mike Cammalleri.
“All those players went back to the NHL and became stars where they hadn’t been stars before. That year in the AHL really helped them. A lot of AHL players who were not seen as top NHL prospects, became top NHL prospects because they played and were measured against those other players.”
This year, the league experienced a 15% increase in ticket revenue, Oklahoma City filled a lot of buildings with the likes of Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall in its star-studded line-up and the lockout provided a growth in media coverage and web traffic.
On the downside, the league lost 126 players when the NHL went back to work, which has changed the competitive balance. Oklahoma City has been faced with a new set of issues since Jan. 19, when its young stars went north to Edmonton. Like other teams that really benefitted from the lockout, since losing those players, the Barons won’t be quite as strong as they were.
For its annual All-Star Game, the AHL was left with a completely different player pool than before the lockout, and with the back-and-forth player movement thanks to NHL training camps, the league was unable to cement a line-up until the last moment.
From a Hockey Canada perspective – on a bigger picture, it doesn’t help the growth of hockey to have the NHL not playing.
When the Team Canada Alumni Association began, the original idea was to provide a way for former national team players and personnel to reconnect and stay in touch with each other and to continue to feel a part of Hockey Canada initiatives. The involvement of the championship teams and alumni in the gala and other events is critical to the Hockey Canada Foundation’s success.
Andrews emphasizes that alumni has played a big role and the TCAA is blessed with being able to find thousands of alumni who are in a position to receive the newsletter and contact with Hockey Canada. Norm Dueck deserves credit for his silent work behind the scenes.
Andrews believes that for Team Canada alumni, there is a common bond of having the honour and pressure of representing one’s country. The memories are so special because of the period of time everyone was together, for whatever pressure-packed event they were in. When it was over, it was over, and then everyone was gone.
“There is an emotional tug for me to remain active with the Hockey Canada Foundation” Andrews says. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a more rewarding experience than in my early years working for Hockey Canada. We took on some huge challenges in terms of changing attitudes about amateur hockey and minor hockey and what it should be about in terms of training coaches and officials. It was really a bit of a crusade back in those days. We built a whole network of volunteers and hoped to better the game and better the kids in the game. That was a really important time, also getting into some of the more high performance areas, like coaching in the Western Hockey League and national team programs. It was a really important time in my career.”
The vision is that the TCAA database will eventually translate into more active participation of alumni with each other and with the organization. The association’s role is to make itself stronger and meaningful for the alumni. With leaders such as Andrews, that’s a future many can see.