Message from Bernie Hnatishin

March 30, 2022

An open letter to the Southdale Oldtimers' Hockey League .... a little late in being sent, but the message is the same

A short while ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Annual General Meeting for this League .... your League. my League. I had not attended one of these for a few years now .... probably more like 10 years. And I was going to address the gathered attendance, but I decided to pen this "open letter" instead, so that all League members may read it, and not only those in attendance at the AGM able to hear what I have to say.

Firstly, I wish to congratulate our current President, Bill Wrublowsky on a very well run AGM. Secondly, I wish to call out the most recent string of past presidents in this League, namely Gil Jeanson, Vince D'Angiolo, and Alex Surasky. Behind these major players are a multitude of cast members, including League Executive personnel, vice-presidents,
secretary-treasurers, team captains and co-captains, and also all of you .... or us, as it were. In my mind, .....I think you all deserve a hearty "gold star award" ... and here's why ....

By my recollection, I am currently playing in my 33'rd consecutive hockey season in this League, having first "spared" in the League back in 1988/89 .... way back when there was only one indoor ice sheet at Southdale, .... and it was built on a sand floor. Back when there were 4 outdoor rinks that many SOHL members spend hours building, fixing ... and flooding. Back when "I was young ...." And so, I believe that I am, or very close to, being the longest-tenured member of this League.

As most of you may be aware, I assumed the role of President of this League just a short while after joining. As I sat at the recent AGM, I felt like a proud father or even grandfather, as it were ... figuratively, of course, ....even though I am each of these in real life. Anyway .... I felt like a "father-figure" ....which I hope you can attest to. I remembered how back in the "infancy days" of this League, how there were just a litany of problems piled atop problems ....strife piled atop strife. There were significant on-ice altercations between opposing players to be constantly "sorted out", difficult suspensions to deal with, (who can forget the "Hooton-gate" affair, which was just one of many incidents), extreme difficulties in maintaining an adequate cash flow to remain a solvent League, difficulties in maintaining player game
attendance because we played at "ungodly" times like 11:15, PM, 11:45 PM, and I think even as late as 12:15 AM ....problems in finding referees who would work for our League .... problems in arranging ice-times.... difficulties in collecting member fees .... and many other similar kinds of woes. It was during these early years that our first Constitution and By-laws were written.

So as I sat at the AGM, I was very impressed and proud to hear the same story being told that has now become the mantra for our League. I heard the same things that all of us hear (or say) during all of those impromptu dressing room aftergame get-togethers, when a few beverages tend to loosen our lips towards expressions of how we really feel. Comments to the effect that "the SOHL is the best adult men's League in the City",.... that "we continue to support our Southdale Community Club, because they extend other courtesies to us that would not be received elsewhere" ..... that "the referees are doing a great job" .... that "No, we aren't having any significant on-ice issues" ..... that "the League is all about comraderie" .... that "we are targeting to have $XX,XXX.00 dollars (yes, that's typically over $10,000!!) in reserve in the bank at the end of the year" .... that "our average age keeps going up (which means that players aren't quitting)" .... that ..."yeah, the wives want to get together again" .... "and yeah ... I miss the banquet ... and my wife does too!!!" ....and most importantly, "we are having great time!". Clearly, all of these and many other similar sentiments are testament to the "well-oiled machine" that the SOHL has now become, ... how well the League has aged and matured .... and how graphically different it is today as compared to the days it ran around in diapers!! Heck,... we have people in their 70's who continue to "strap 'em on" in the "afternoon division" ..... and that in itself is another example of the enrichment that
the Southdale Oldtimers' Hockey League brings to our lives. We can't let go!!!

But alas ... and I would feel re-miss ...if I did not mention that it is with heavy hearts that we continue to soldier on as we mourn the un-timely passing of our friends and team mates. I am hoping that they are all able to find a friendly hockey game in the heavens, where the whistle will never blow, and the shifts will never end!!

And so I will say in closing, that I am very proud of all of you Executive members and Team Captains, who continue to carry the "SOHL torch", and have steadfastly "talked the talk, and walked the walk". You deserve congratulations. And to all League members, thank-you for your "buy-in" to the principals and idealisms that forms the backbone of the SOHL! I have often said during my long-ago tenure as President, that each and every one of you bring a certain something to the "SOHL table". Each of you have a crayon that colours the picture that has become the Southdale Oldtimers' Hockey League! We have an absolutely fantastic thing going here!! Be proud, play safe .... and don't quit!!

Bernie Hnatishin
Your Long Past - Past President


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