2021 nvw hno presidents en

A fab four of HNO volunteers

A quartet of local hockey association presidents in northwestern Ontario answer questions about all things volunteering

Gary Moskalyk
April 22, 2021

They represent a sort of Mount Rushmore of hockey volunteers across Hockey Northwestern Ontario.

Tim Griffin, Shannon Hutchison, Chris Larrett and Aaron Piccinin of are all presidents of their respective local hockey associations, and all took the time to share their insights on giving back to the game.

Tim Griffin (Longlac Minor Hockey Association)

What is your connection to the game?

“I'm just a hockey guy. Played all the way through minor hockey. I rose all the way to the lofty level of Junior B hockey in Newfoundland. I love the game, that's all.”

What is your attitude towards volunteering?

“Like anything in life, you've got to be level-headed. Stuff happens. You have to make some tough decisions. There are lots of people to work with. You have your own association, [and] you have your neighbourhood associations to work with. You have HNO. You have to work with them. You can't take your ball and go home. None of us are in it for the money. If any volunteer was in it for the money they'd quit after about a week.”

How else do you like to stay involved with hockey your community?

“One of the things I love doing now is the timekeeping. I [also] go up and watch the [U7s] play. I sit there and BS with all the parents. It’s just [about] giving our kids, in a tiny community like Longlac, a place to play hockey and enjoy the game.”

What is your favourite story of volunteering?

“My first year as president was '95 or '96. The town staff went on strike so we had no ice. I think I was probably the only minor hockey president in the country who didn't have any ice.”

Shannon Hutchison (Dryden Minor Hockey Association)

What is your approach to minor hockey?

“It's always about the kids and seeing them come to a place where they love to be and get to see their friends. This year especially. Having the year end the way that it did. Hearing the stories and watching my own kids go through the struggles [of having no hockey]. That's what they love to do. They eat, sleep and dream about hockey. [It's about] the families and the friendships that are created for us along the way.”

How important was it to have hockey this season?

“Knowing how important it was for a lot of the kids, hearing about mental health. Hearing the positives from the kids, how excited they were. Even if they couldn't go to tournaments, even if they didn't get to play games, they were happy back on the ice with their friends, whatever it was.”

What does your future hold in volunteering?

“I think I will stay on in some capacity [after my term as president ends]. I've been through a lot, so [I have] learned a lot. Every year I learn something different. [It is] definitely a good thing to stay on and help people through different situations. Every time I think ‘Well, that tops the cake,’ something else happens to top the cake. I don't think there's an easy job when it comes to hockey.

Chris Larrett (Norwest Minor Hockey Association)

Why do you volunteer?

“The volunteer base [with Norwest] is awesome. I do not mind going to the rink and I do not mind meeting for Norwest Minor Hockey. I'll do whatever it takes. I grew up playing at that barn. I have a lot of history there.”

Who was your volunteer mentor?

“Bill Duncan was the number one reason I joined the board. I also had the pleasure of joining Bill on the bench as his assistant coach for five years. It was a great mentorship program that I went through. [He is] one awesome individual and was the reason I got into joining the board.”

What is your approach to success with young players?

“You have to find a way to reach each kid. Some need to be pushed. Some need to go the other way. I find [if you] praise and support them no matter what, the result is better. Kids need to hear more pros than cons and I'm adapting like crazy to that.”

What advice do you have for new coaches?

“Grab a mentor. You can't come in like you know it all. Grab someone to learn off of and do it that way.”

Aaron Piccinin (Port Arthur Minor Hockey Association)

How did you get involved as a volunteer?

“Hockey gave me a lot, locally. There are a lot of people who put into me playing hockey. I just kind of fell in line with that. I started [volunteering] when my kids started [playing] and evolved from there. When volunteer positions became available, I was the guy at the time. That's how it all worked out.”

How do your hockey experiences help as a volunteer?

“I've put your whole life towards playing hockey. It was obviously a strong passion when I was a child right through to university and as an adult until I started work. It's just something you carry through as a tradition to your own kids and try to give that experience not only to your own kids but all our members.”

What is the best part about being involved in hockey?

“The biggest thing is watching the relationships my children build and that I've built. I'm coaching with people I've played with in the past. It's the total experience. It turns into how our lives are, how our social life becomes. It's all about hanging out with hockey people.”

How challenging has this season been?

"[I am] super thankful to all of my coaches throughout Port Arthur and to my presidents of the clubs throughout the organization. It was a trust testament to them being volunteers. It wasn't the easiest time to be a volunteer.”

How important are volunteers to your association?

“It's really important to give praise to all the volunteers. There are a lot of moving parts. It's a partnership between the city, HNO and all the hockey clubs. When that part works really well, it moves into all of our volunteers who make all the nuts and bolts fit together. I can't give them enough thanks. Without them, hockey wouldn't happen.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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