It is a question that has been asked over and over again through the years, and the answer seems fairly obvious, but in honour of National Volunteer Week it is worth asking one more time.
Where would Canadian hockey be without the volunteers?
Arguably, there would be no Canadian hockey. From the Hockey Canada Board of Directors to the hockey mom or dad who opens the concession at the local rink on a Saturday morning, volunteers are the engine that drives the game.
Joe Drago, chairman of the board for Hockey Canada, knows that better than anyone. He has been involved in hockey for more than 40 years, many of those in a volunteer capacity.
From the minor hockey association in his hometown of Sudbury, Ont., to his time as president of the Ontario Hockey Federation and now as a director and chairman with Hockey Canada, Drago knows the impact volunteers can have on minor hockey.
“I don’t think the game can survive without volunteers,” Drago says. “It’s such a committed group of people that work in hockey, and it doesn’t matter where you go in this country, that commitment is there.”
And it’s true, it really doesn’t matter where you go.
From Parksville, B.C., to Hay River, N.W.T., to Peterborough, Ont., to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., poke your head into any arena on any given weekend during hockey season, and count the volunteers.
Coaches. Officials. Team managers. Ice schedulers. Skate sharpeners. And so many, many more.
This season, more than 500,000 Canadians in every corner of the country gave their time to make hockey dreams a reality for players at every level of the game, whether they had children in the game or not.
“I think that’s the key,” Drago says. “Absolutely, the hockey moms and hockey dads play such an important role in nurturing and supporting their child’s passion for the game. But there are plenty of everyday Canadians who don’t have kids involved who just want to be part of Canadian hockey.”
It may be cliché, but it really does prove that hockey is more than just a game to people in every province and every territory. It’s a part of the country’s culture; it’s a part of who we are as Canadians.
Ask any volunteer why they volunteer and it will likely come back to a memory, a moment in time that showed them what hockey could do, and how it could bring people together.
For the members of the Hockey Canada Board of Directors, that’s why they continue to give their time. They know that while they have the ability to shape the game, they are just pieces in a much larger puzzle.
They have been involved in the game from the lowest levels of grassroots hockey through to the brightest lights of the international stage, and they do it because they know what hockey means.
“There’s just something about this game,” Drago says. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a young child stepping onto the ice for the first time, or a Midget player lifting the TELUS Cup to finish their minor hockey career. It’s about the moments that make you step back and realize how special the game really is.”
And it’s the volunteers who make it special. So, in celebration of National Volunteer Week, we say thank you.