SUNDRE — For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the Sundre Minor Hockey Association was able to assemble in-person to recognize the 2021-22 season’s exemplary players, coaches, and managers.
“Everything went off without a hitch. It was good,” said Tim Kennedy, president.
The return of the annual awards was hosted on the evening of April 11 at the Sundre Community Centre and was well attended by many players, parents and association volunteers.
“It was pretty well a full house,” said Kennedy, adding it was good to see so many smiling faces after being unable to host the event in two years.
Originally from Québec, Kennedy said he’s only lived in Sundre for more than five years after taking an early retirement with his wife. But he’s made the most of his relatively brief time in town so far — having helped coach the U7s, U9s, U13s and U18s — and was was among those recognized when he was presented with the Tireless Award.
“I put in a lot of time,” he said. “Before Christmas, I was coaching three different teams.”
His schedule became even “more intense” as the effort to prepare plans for the recent U13 Hockey Alberta provincials ramped up. But while Kennedy had a sneaking suspicion he might receive the award and appreciated the accolades, he said that’s not what motivates him.
“I’m not big on awards or speaking,” he said with a chuckle. “I’d just as soon be in the background. Everybody likes awards, don’t get me wrong. But I’m more of a background type.”
With one full year under his belt as the organization’s president, Kennedy considered the past season to be successful and praised both the U18s and especially the U13s for their performance leading up to and at provincials.
“Can’t say enough about those U13s,” he said, also expressing appreciation to the municipality not only for getting the ice ready weeks earlier than usual, but also for keeping the arena running later to accommodate provincials.
Now, he is optimistically looking ahead to the second year of his term.
Asked his thoughts about the importance of providing an opportunity for youth in the community to play hockey, he said it’s always important to ensure kids have the option to play any sport.
“Just as long as the kids are active,” said Kennedy, who has also coached for minor ball and plans to be an umpire. “Later on in life, it means a lot that they were active.”
Establishing healthy habits and community engagement early sets the stage for life and will eventually carry onto their children, he said.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “A lot of kids I’ve coached over the years, they’re coaching their own kids now.”
Leaving positive impressions and influencing young people to embrace sportsmanship, commitment to teamwork, self-improvement and volunteerism is in its own way a legacy.
“That’s what you try to instill in these young guys,” he said.
Among those recognized at the awards night was Aaron Johnson, who was named Coach of the Year after his effort leading the U13s to provincials.
Three retiring U18 Huskies — Tyson Gauthier, Kaiden Vennard and Dominik McCullough — were recognized and wished well on their future endeavours.
Another three U18 players received plaques: Evan Smith, sportsmanship award; Noah Smeets, most improved player; and Tyson Gauthier, most valuable player.
There were also four U13s awarded: Justin Liwczak, most improved; Tylan Mayan, sportsmanship award; Carson Nault, Ironman award; and Brady Smith, most valuable player.
Simon McCullough was recognized as Referee of the Year.
Check Sundre Minor Hockey Association’s Facebook page for the complete list of awards and special recognitions.