Meadowvale Minor Hockey Association celebrates 40th year
In 1976, when just over a quarter-million people called Mississauga home, a brand new arena was built just south of the 401 at Erin Mills Parkway. Over the 40 years since, its most frequent users, the Meadowvale Minor Hockey Association, have grown into the largest minor hockey organization in a city that, at last count, is home to nearly 800,000 residents.
Growing the game
The MMHA began with a modest seven-team entry in 1976-77, one for each of its founding members. Jim Buckle, Wally Jones, Wally Rawn, Brian Shaw, Dave Strutt and Bob and Pat Jones were the brainworks behind the association, which now has 87 teams on the ice for its 40th anniversary season.
Jeff Jones, son of Bob and Pat, carries vivid memories of what it was like growing up in the blossoming MMHA community.
“My earliest memory is of going with my dad to the not yet finished Meadowvale Four Rinks to see if he could get some ice time on Sundays for the new house league,” wrote Jones in an email to Breakout.
Jeff essentially grew up at the rink, where his parents each served as president of the MMHA – Bob the first and Pat the fourth. He would skate at every opportunity and soon followed in his parents’ footsteps by immersing himself in the organization and in the Mississauga community.
“I was one of the first house league referees and reffed on Sunday mornings for years,” said Jones.
Each trip to the rink – and every hockey-gear clad venture onto the MMHA float in the Bread and Honey parade – was away to maintain a sense of community in the ever-growing Mississauga metropolis. And as the city grew, so too did the organization, and the friendships it was founded upon.
“The group of people who were involved in the formation of the league were like family to me,” said Jones. “Wally and Diane Rawn, Bob and Elaine Enros, Mac Macfarlane, Jim and Bibi Pinfold; we all spent many hours at the rink as families and it still feels like home when I walk in to the Four Rinks.”
Go door-to-door in the Meadowvale area and you’re still likely to come across someone involved in the MMHA. The organization prides itself on being powered by volunteers, writing on meadowvalehockey.com that it is staffed “solely and exclusively by volunteers from within the Meadowvale hockey community,” from parents and family members of players past and present.
“Committed and talented volunteers continue to drive the success of our organization, ensuring that our minor hockey players receive positive experiences both on and off the ice,” said Liz Wilson-Ciconte, publicity director for the MMHA (a volunteer position, of course).
One of the most popular offerings in Meadowvale currently is free registration into the Team Shutout Goalie School, a pro-level training program for goaltenders of any age and skill level.
“As a goalie and a goalie mom I felt that our goalies needed more attention during practice,” said Tracy Graham–Urwin, Meadowvale’s (volunteer) programming director for the past five years. “Our goalies are happy, increasing their confidence on and off the ice, and they feel special that this time is dedicated to help them be better players for their teams.”
Paying it forward
The volunteerism and free clinics of today are characteristic of the organization’s roots. While some contributions are rewarded with trophies and awards, many acts of kindness fly under the radar in the minor hockey community. Their impact, though, lasts generations.
“Someone I didn’t know came up to me at an event last year and asked if I was Jeff Jones. The man then told me how his parents were unable to register him in his second year of hockey due to money. My dad had wondered why the player was not back and called them; the parents told him they could not afford it so my dad told him to come to the rink anyway and play.”
Another anecdote comes from former MMHA president Ron Popadiuk, who tells the story of the most shocking – and proudest – moment from his surprise 50th birthday party.
“Twenty or so young gentlemen all born in the year 1995 came,” said Popadiuk, who is in his 17th year with the organization. “These young men were all part of teams I coached over the years. I truly felt respected for the time I have and will continue to put into minor hockey in Mississauga.”
Stories like these are the foundation of community – people being there for others, from the kindness of their hearts. That’s what makes minor hockey. That’s what makes Meadowvale.
Cheers to (at least) another 40 years of happiness and hockey.