2022  n v w joan hockey alberta  e n  m a i n

A lifetime of giving back

Through three IIHF World Junior Championships and over 30 years with Hockey Edmonton, Joan Kirillo has dedicated her life to her city

Bernadette Larose
April 28, 2022

Like most hockey parents turned volunteers, Joan Kirillo got involved in the game when her kids started playing.

For over 30 years, Kirillo gave back to her community as a volunteer with Hockey Edmonton, and she served as a board member for Edmonton Minor Hockey Week for 27 years.

“From that, I got to meet some really good people,” explains Kirillo. “[Including] Al Hamilton and Ted Green.”

Identifying the need for an outdoor rink in Edmonton’s inner district, Oilers alumni Hamilton and Green, along with Father Jim Holland of Sacred Heart Church, recruited Kirillo to their committee to build what would eventually be the McCauley Community Rink.

“They just decided to give that to hockey and got the rest of us all involved and said, ‘We need help. Here, do this,’” says Kirillo.

The group raised over $200,000 to build the rink, which came to life in 2012.

“They feed the kids, they have all the equipment, the kids play shinny hockey and it's still going.”

Kirillo was perfectly suited to help get the project across the finish line, working as the business manager for the Mill Woods Golf Course and a project manager for the Mill Woods Cultural and Recreation Facility Association (MCARFA), helping build the arenas that are now a part of the Mill Woods Recreation Centre, fulfilling the growing need for available ice for local hockey associations.

Kirillo and her team at MCARFA have gone on to build skate parks, running tracks and the Jackie Parker Recreation Area.

Watching her juggle her responsibilities and countless volunteer hours spent outside the projects, MCARFA director Bob Strynadka explains that Kirillo’s greatest attribute as a volunteer is her strength as a leader. “Her vision and drive make all volunteer projects and programs she gets involved a success. Her enthusiasm always rubs off on others on the team. Everyone enjoys the time spent.”

Having devoted so many years to her city and hockey associations already, it was an easy decision for Kirillo to put her hand up for the IIHF World Junior Championship when they came to Edmonton and Calgary in 2012.

“A friend of mine, Lyle Best, was the co-chair of the event back then and he got me involved and it was really, really good,” she says. “I worked on the 50/50 program sales, all the volunteers fan fair, the school program…everything.”

So when the World Juniors came back to central Alberta in 2020, albeit under much different circumstances in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she jumped again at the opportunity.

“Joan was our chair of our utility committee in 2020 and 2021 which handles volunteer operations and accreditation for the event,” explains Corinne Ethier, a manager of events and properties with Hockey Canada. “Because of COVID, she had to operate under a lot of virtual guidance and took it all in stride. She’s incredibly patient and understanding, which was exactly what we needed in the situation the events were delivered under. She’s an absolute sweetheart.”

Ethier recalls Kirillo going above and beyond for the event, when the World Juniors group was in need of a back-up shipping location when the arena was unavailable. Kirillo and her team offered up the Mill Woods Golf Course, expertly navigating logistics to help the tournament staff.

When asked why she dedicates so much time to her community, Kirillo’s answer was simple: “For one thing, I love my city. I love giving back and I really love the people that you meet.”

As the World Juniors return to Edmonton this summer for a renewal of the 2022 event that was cancelled last December, Kirillo plans to stay involved, navigating her commitments with the golf course and the international event.

Still, after over 30 years of volunteering in her community she encourages others to do the same and reap the same fulfillment she has been able to.

“You’ve got to get involved. These are experiences that you will never, ever regret.”

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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