Lifetime volunteer Mike Spencer honoured at Sen's game
OTTAWA - Nearly four decades ago, a young Mike Spencer hit the ice in Prescott, acting as a referee for the South Grenville Minor Hockey Association. That decision would be one that would change the course of his life, and set in motion a long and successful career in the minor hockey world, built on passion, dedication, and a strong focus on volunteerism.
On Sunday, November 13, as his family, friends and colleagues watched, along with thousands of fans at Ottawa's Canadian Tire Centre, Spencer was awarded for his years of commitment and ambition in minor hockey within the Hockey Eastern Ontario Minor Association. In a presentation by HEO Minor Executive President Denis Dumais and Ottawa Senators Team President Cyril Leeder, Spencer was honoured as HEO Minor Hockey Country Volunteer of the Year. Along with a plaque from the HEO Minor Association, Spencer received a personalized Ottawa Senators jersey from the team. The ceremony took place as part of the Canadian Tire Centre's Minor Hockey Week, presented by Scotiabank.
"Every year, this award goes to someone that has been involved in hockey for many years, and has dedicated a lot of time towards the betterment of minor hockey. Mike fits that bill. He's committed to making hockey a great experience for the kids, and he does so much behind the scenes to improve the association; he's very deserving of this award," said HEO Minor Executive President Denis Dumais.
Spencer was chosen to receive this year's award out of 6,000 volunteers within the association. Volunteers throughout HEO Minor fill a variety of significant roles, including coaching, refereeing and training of the 25,000 players on HEO Minor Hockey teams.
"This is such an honour for me. Myself, along with the thousands of other volunteers in this association, do what we do because we have a passion for hockey; we have a passion for helping these kids succeed. This is more than an association of leagues and teams; this has become a community of friends and a second family. Many of us have worked together for many years. I'm proud to be a part of this association and will continue to do what I can to improve all aspects of the experience for everyone involved," said Spencer on receiving this year's award.
Since his start as a local referee, Spencer has moved through the roles and ranks of the Minor Hockey world, both locally and regionally. Today, he acts as the current President of Hockey Eastern Ontario Minor AA/A. The league consists of 96 teams, 11 associations, and nearly 1,500 players spanning the Novice A to Midget AA levels. HEO Minor AA/A covers the entire Eastern Ontario Region and also includes two teams from Canton, New York. Spencer doubles as the Midget AA Convenor for the league, and continues to referee when he can. This season, Spencer has taken on additional responsibilities within the association's Risk & Discipline Committee, a Pilot Project recently launched.
As President of the league, Spencer oversees an executive board and group of Level Convenors, with a focus on ensuring that the league is running optimally on all fronts while encouraging growth and development.
"It's about making sure that we are putting great quality teams on the ice. And just like the local minor hockey leagues, we are a development league. We develop our A players to move to AA, and our AA players to move to AAA. We instill that upon our coaches, management, and officials as well; we're also developing them to move up in their careers," said Spencer about the importance of advancement and progress for players, staff, and executives alike within the league.
Though he works with a demanding schedule behind the scenes, Spencer is a frequent presence at league games and events throughout the region all season long.
"He's always at a rink, if he's not at a rink; he's watching hockey," joked Spencer's partner Anne Evans of his love for the sport.
Spencer was the recipient of last year's Sarah Spencer Memorial Award in Prescott, awarded to a person who has shown continued dedication to South Grenville Minor Hockey. Spencer refereed for 37 consecutive years at Prescott's annual Leo Boivin International Midget AAA Showcase. During the day, Spencer works as Manager of Parks, Recreation & Facilities for the Township of Edwardsburgh/Cardinal.