Before last Tuesday night’s St. Marys Minor Hockey Association’s annual awards banquet at the Royal Canadian Legion, only 11 men had been inducted as a SMMHA Life Member.
It’s the “ultimate recognition” the association can reward someone with, and why it’s reserved for only a few. Add Paul Mitchell’s name to that prestigious list, and a very deserving selection.
Over the last 20 years, Mitchell has worn many hats within the association.
He’s possibly best known for being a referee and on-ice official, but the Lakeside area resident has served in many other capacities, fellow Life Member Bill McPhail outlined when introducing Mitchell.
“Paul has been a dedicated volunteer and member of St. Marys minor hockey for the past two decades,” McPhail said. “Confident, passionate, respectful and integrity are words that best describe Paul.
“If you want things done on time, in a fact-based and disciplined way, Paul is the guy for the job.”
President in 2003-04
The following is just a sample of what Mitchell has contributed as a member of St. Marys minor hockey.
Mitchell was SMMHA president in 2003-04, and also served as secretary, registrar, Booster Weekend chairman and on the finance committee. He has been a member of the coaches committee, referee assignor, an association director for at least three terms, and was SMMHA ice convener for many years. He also coached in “his spare time.”
Mitchell was named the Pethick Memorial Award winner in 2000, given each year for outstanding contribution and dedication to the SMMHA.
One of his major accomplishments was spearheading the drive for St. Marys to join the Lambton-Middlesex League, and he served as Local League rep. for the first few years.
All this while being a firefighter with the Uniondale Fire Department for the past 32 years. He is now the Uniondale fire chief. Mitchell and his wife Janice also run a very fine catering business, which provided a delicious meal last Tuesday evening.
Janice Mitchell and three of their four children (Natalie, Effie and Russ; Keith is in Ottawa) were in attendance for the family’s special night.
When an emotional Mitchell was handed the microphone, he thanked McPhail and MC Mark Bodenham for all their “kind words.”
“I figured something was up, and that proves that us referees are more observant than most of you give us credit for,” he quipped in his opening remarks.
“I tried to be in control as a referee and as district chief on the fire department, but when I start talking about things that mean a lot to me sometimes my emotions take over,” Mitchell continued.
“This is, indeed, the highest honour that I can achieve from minor hockey. It is really humbling to be recognized and I really appreciate it. Tonight marks the completion of my 20th year in minor hockey.
“Yes, I admit making a few bucks refereeing, but the return (from minor hockey) was much more than money . . . it was being part of the community and giving back to the community. I didn’t get too much of a chance to play hockey as a kid, so my contribution was as an adult in many different roles.”
Thanks family for support
Mitchell acknowledged his family for all their support over the years.
“You don’t stick with something for 20 years without the support of your family,” he said. “I’d like to thank my kids who are here tonight . . . all four of them played hockey. Russ had to put up with being the coach’s kid, which is never easy,” he said.
“I also couldn’t have done it without my wife Janice. I believe if you are part of a community, you have to contribute. And if you’re going to contribute, you do it the best that you can. It’s always the way (Janice) has approached things that she’s done. She always supported me during my years working with minor hockey.”
Mitchell says the biggest change he has noticed in minor hockey over the past two decades has been the growth of girls hockey.
“Twenty years ago, there were no girls playing hockey and no teams. Along with the Rock logo and the Rock emblem, and the building of the second ice pad, the (increased) involvement of females in minor hockey at all levels is probably the biggest change I’ve seen in the last 20 years.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, has decided that this past season will be his last as a hockey referee.
“As a referee, I always tried to be impartial,” he summed up. “Some St. Marys coaches maybe thought I was too impartial. But as a member of the St. Marys Minor Hockey Association, I always thought we provided a program that’s equal to anybody else and better than most. And to have my name always attached to it is one of my greatest achievements.”
As a gift, Mitchell received a large rock, with the SMMHA’s emblem and the following words inscribed on it: ‘Life member 2013.’
The 11 other Life Members
Before Paul Mitchell was officially added to the prestigious list, the first 11 SMMHA Life Members were acknowledged last Tuesday night at the Legion:
Les Skipper (1979), Ferris Stewart (1982), Ray ‘Fid’ Fowler (1985), Terry Martin (1990), Murray Mitchell (1992), Stew McLennan (1993), Randy Preszcator (1995), Ken Schiedel (2001), Larry McLellan (2005), John Blake (2006) and Bill McPhail (2011).
Schiedel, McLellan and McPhail attended this year’s minor hockey awards banquet.