When RBC came on board as the major sponsor of the revamped Tri-Com minor hockey league, the Tri-Com executive assumed they’d be required to rename league after the country’s largest financial institution.
“Our public relations gave a couple of ideas about the naming scheme and suggested there might be a community volunteer ... to name the league after,” says Trevor Earle, senior account manager with RBC’s branch on Water Street in St. John’s.
“Through our Play Hockey program, we like to pay respect and recognize a lot of the hard work from the volunteers in communities across the country who make hockey work.”
For Jack Casey, president of the St. John’s minor association and a member of the Tri-Com executive, the choice was obvious.
“In your own community, it’s not very often you can say you have a former president and lifetime member of Hockey Canada, a former president and lifetime member of Hockey Newfoundland, someone who was instrumental in putting a lot of rinks in place, instrumental in bringing Newfoundland into Hockey Canada,” Casey says.
“There should be a lot more stuff named after Don Johnson. He’s a tremendous man with a tremendous love of the game.”
On Wednesday night at the Glacier in Mount Pearl, the Tri-Com Hockey League officially became the Don Johnson Hockey League.
When contacted by the league about the renaming last week, Johnson suggested someone else for the honour.
“I said, ‘you should consider Rosemary Marshall,’” Johnson says of the wife of the late Doug Marshall who has an all-star midget league named in his honour. “
Then they would have the Doug Marshall league and the Rosemary Marshall league.”
“Being that I gave them an alternative and they still came back and said ‘no, we’d like to name it after you’, I was really honoured.”
In true Johnson fashion, when he soke after accepting the honour, he spoke little of himself and instead sang the praises of minor hockey volunteers who make leagues like the one named in his honour possible.
“I really feel we need to start giving special appreciation to those people who organized this league tonight,” Johnson, 82, explained.
“Look at the coaches. Look at RBC sponsoring. That’s why these kids are on the ice.
Joining emcee Steve Power, Casey, Earle and Johnson were representatives of team sponsors, members of the league executive, former Tri Com co-ordinator Tim Power and 2011 RBC Olympian Vicki Leblanc. Leblanc played for Canada’s women’s softball team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
RBC and each team’s title sponsor, have committed to a three-year partnership. With the added sponsorship money, the league is now able to expand their minor hockey program and put more of an emphasis on skill development.
“For a lot of these kids, last year they would have played one hour game of hockey, now they’re playing a minimum of one and a half,” said Casey.
“They’re all getting two practices a week now, I know in our association in the past, they got three every two weeks. So we’re upping the focus on hockey development.”