By Chris Marchand
If you would have asked Malcolm Robertson back in August what was in store for the Dryden Ice Dogs in the 2011/2012 season, he’s not sure he’d know what to say.
In the brief lull between the end of the SIJHL quarterfinals and the semi-finals, league commissioner Ron Whitehead named the Ice Dogs president Robertson The Gary Cook Memorial SIJHL Executive Of the Year, Friday, March 16.
“He stepped up in those sometimes difficult situations to offer his help, balancing the needs of his team with the requirements of the league, while at all times remembering what is really the most important part of our decisions, what is best for the players,” said Whitehead.
If it’s how one handles adversity that determines how they are to be remembered, then Robertson says the club faced some of its biggest challenges before the ice was even in at Dryden Memorial Arena.
The club found themselves scrambling to find a head coach on short notice as 2010/11 coach Clint Mylymok accepted a position with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Notre Dame Hounds just a few weeks before training camp.
“To be where we’re at right now from where we started, I’m really happy,” said Robertson. “Especially with the players and coaching staff. I mean, minimal people showed up at our camp just because the coach had left. We had to find ourselves a new coach (Joe West) and we had to find players. There were a lot of bumps in the road when we first started. When it comes right down to it, the players are the ones who’ve got to get out on the ice and win and we’ve had a decent season considering the hardships we’ve started with.”
Robertson says a mix of fresh enthusiasm and experienced volunteers served the organization well over the 2011/2012 season.
“It was a whole new experience for a lot of people like myself taking on the presidency, then we had Brad Boyko as GM,” said Robertson. “We had a few new volunteers. It was a whole new excitement. We had a bunch of people that were eager to go and we had people like Sandra Boyko and Lori La Forest from years’ past who were back and it was nice to have their experience. The group got along really well. Things just seemed to work for us.”
Robertson says a better relationship with billet families was one aspect of the season that affected mutiple aspects of the operation.
“We got some excellent new billet families this year as well as those from years’ past,” said Robertson. “I think the boys have been really happy. We’ve had an opportunity to be able help the billets out — paying them right through the year. To me that was a real positive. They’ve been showing up at the games and really supporting the kids. It’s kind of like a big family and that makes everything work better.”
As a tough economy and high fuel prices continue to tighten the purse strings for a non-profit community hockey club, Robertson says the community and their sponsors have once again come through for a great season of hockey in Dryden.
“There’s always going to be tough times,” he said. “We’re a sponsorship dependent organization with some fundraising in a small town. Our sponsors are amazing. They step up and they help us every year and we have a lot of dedicated fans that come out and buy the tickets every year. The organization had a great year.”