Warning – Mature Content and Opinion!
Thursday night I went to watch the Minor Peewee Red MOHA House League Championship game at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex. I had just heard that the MOHA (finally) were going to recognize Mike Zardo who passed away last June.
I came home afterwards as the saying goes “ready to chew nails and spit fire”! I have applied the “24 hour rule”, and then some, but it hasn’t helped much.
Basically no one was invited and I was lucky to find out about it as Debbie called us.
Mike’s wife, Debbie, only found out about it 2 or 3 days ahead of time via a phone voice mail.
With no disrespect to the Minor Peewee kids, The “recognition” was a trophy for the division’s sportsmanship award with a short spiel lifted from the article the Beaver was finally pressured into running that was provided by Debbie based on the recommendation letter I wrote when Mike was awarded the OMHA Honour Award (a real recognition award) in 2008.
After this “non-event” the agenda quickly moved on to their other prestigious awards – best defenseman, best goalie etc.
I would say it was a joke, except that it is not funny. The organization would have been better off doing nothing rather than embarrassing themselves with this token award, slap in the face. Anyone involved in orchestrating or supporting this decision should be ashamed!
What a choice!
- The players in the Minor Peewee division were not even playing in the association when Mike was president
- Most parents, especially for this age group, would not have a clue who Mike was, let alone what he did for the Association
- Mike apparently did not even merit having a championship trophy dedicated to hin, as has been done for others who contributed orders of magnitude less.
- The “award” does not even register on any kind of scale compared to the recognition he got from his peers and the Ontario Minor Hockey Association’s Honour Award but I guess that is not relevant or important to the local folks.
- Mike was the President, face of, and champion for minor hockey and the kids of Oakville for over 20 years, as well as contributing in other ways for 30.
- He rescued a bankrupt organization and brought it to the sound financial state it was in when he left with established controls, checks and balances.
- He gave up most of his evenings and week-ends, nearly year round to support the association, the parents and kids – doing so as a non-parent volunteer and at the expense of his own family time..
- Developing his “Rhino” hide as the one who took the heat from any league or team official or parent or player who did not get their way and felt the need to complain about it.
At the end of the day this was a thoughtless and insulting gesture make by a group of folks who wanted to be able to say they “checked the recognition box”.
I could go on and on about all of the big and little and unnoticed things that Mike did thanklessly day in and day out but there is no point. The thanklessness has now been extended to him and appears to be the way things are run these days.
People wonder why it is so hard to get good volunteers? Well wonder no more. The “What’s in it for me” here and now, self-interest crowd holds sway.
In case anyone is interested, I have included in the following, the content that was provided and ran (belatedly and under pressure) by the Beaver.
For the uninitiated, I worked with Mike for over 10 years, the last 8 as Vice President of House League. We did not get off to a good start (a whole other story), but I did see and share what he did and put up with to provide the level of excellence that MOHA established and maintained during his tenure. It truly is unfortunate that this is the result.
MIKE ZARDO 1949-2016
As folks prepare for the 2016/17 hockey season, it is important to note that Oakville lost an icon this summer with the passing of Mike Zardo in June.
In 1974 when Mike’s son Rod played his first year of hockey in Oakville there was a shortage of coaches in the organization and after complaining to his wife Debbie that they needed more help she told him to do something about it or stop complaining. These words came back to haunt Debbie as he dedicated much of his life to the MOHA.
For over 20 years Mike was the face of minor hockey in our community, serving as the President of the Minor Oaks Hockey Association. Mike always took pride in championing what was the right decision for minor hockey participants, not necessarily what would be the easiest or most popular choice.
Many times this was a difficult process but Mike always stood by his convictions, despite whatever criticisms are directed at him. The “kids” always come first.
As a volunteer, Mike’s commitment knew no bounds. On almost any evening he could be found in the “hockey office” ready to lend a hand. Parents would show up “expecting him to be there and he was.
Mike served the local association as President from 1986 until his “retirement” in 2008 except for a brief hiatus in 1993 where he still served as Vice President, Town Rep, discipline Chair and Equipment Manager. Mike returned as President from his brief “sabbatical” to rescue an organization that had fallen on hard time. The association was literally bankrupt, with major ice bills outstanding with the Town of Oakville, as well as debts to other suppliers and significant organizational challenges.
Mike spearheaded the “turn-around” efforts that brought MOHA back to a solid financial footing. His roll up your sleeves and find it / fix it approach motivated his team and revitalized the organization. Thanks to Mike’s untiring efforts, MOHA now operates on a sound financial basis, has built a responsible surplus and has established comprehensive financial and operating controls.
Mike established the MOHA as a role model organization within the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) with annual audited statements, mandated team budgets and regularly reviewed bylaws.
Prior to assuming his Presidential role, Mike contributed to the organization for a number of years, dating back to 1982, as a coach and convenor at a number of levels.
As President, Mike shepherded Minor Oaks growth from less than 1,500 participants to close to 4,000 in 2008
Mike was a strong advocate of Hometown hockey and local player development. He was a key driver in promoting the Mitron High Performance Hockey System for Oakville. Mike saw the need for a consistent tool for Town Rep coaches to develop players throughout the age groups and ability levels, and to help the coaches work together to achieve these results.
House League development was also a key focus for Mike with his roots in coaching and convening. Mike recognized the importance of giving kids a great start and was a key supporter of MOHA’s revamped Initiation Program. The focus on coach and player development, created a House League program where teams are often deemed “too competitive” for other centres House or Local League events.
A key indication of Mike’s contributions to minor hockey is the recognition of his peers. As a long term member of the SCTA and Tri County organizations, Mike was an acknowledged resource on issues and concerns and in sessions, it is often “what Oakville thinks” that carried the day.
The OMHA has also recognized Mike’s hockey contributions over the years. Mike was appointed as the original “905” area representative in the groundwork leading to the formation of the Lake Ontario Region.
His contributions were further recognized in 2008 when Mike was awarded the prestigious OMHA “Honour Award”. The Honour Award was established to honour a person who has made an outstanding voluntary contribution to minor hockey for a considerable period of time. Mike is the only local recipient of this award since it was established in 1948.
In addition to his MOHA duties, Mike has also taken an active role in supporting youth in the community. As a coach, Mike was approached by the Syl Apps Youth Centre to take on two of their charges as players as an opportunity for these young men to enjoy a recreational outlet and support their rehabilitation.
He also established the “President’s Fund” to support players with financial difficulties and worked with the Big Brothers organization.
While President, Mike also found the time to lend support to the local High School hockey program by serving as the Head Coach for the Purdue hockey team.
Mike also contributed to the Parks and recreation Master plan, was an ongoing participant is ice allocation planning, a key proponent of the “Youth First” policy and was a member of the River Oaks Recreation Centre expansion building committee.
Mike stepped away from hockey in 2008 to spend time with his family. He was a devoted Papa to his grandchildren Nicholas and Chloe, whom he adored, but always maintained his interest in the game.
He is sadly missed by his much loved wife Debbie and son Rod and all who knew him.