Took a while for the recognition but nice to see. A good friend gone.
Oakville’s Mike Zardo remembered — 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 Mike dedicated much of his life to the Minor Oaks Hockey Association (MOHA).
For more than 20 years, Mike was the face of minor hockey in our community, serving as the president of the MOHA. 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 were directed as him. The kids always came 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 when he still served as vice president, Town rep, discipline chair and equipment manager.
Mike returned from his brief sabbatical as president to rescue an organization that had fallen on hard times. There were major bills to be paid, debts and significant organizational challenges.
Mike spearheaded the ‘turn-around’ efforts that brought the MOHA onto a solid financial footing. His roll-up-your-sleeves attitude and find it/fix it approach motivated his team and revitalized the organization.
Thanks to Mike’s tireless 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 1974, as a coach and convenor at a number of levels.
As president, Mike shepherded Minor Oaks growth from fewer 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 worth 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 supporters 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 was the recognition of his peers. As a long-term member of the SCTA and TriCounty organizations, Mike was an acknowledged resource on issues and concerns and in sessions, it was often “what Oakville thinks” that carried the day.
The OMHA recognized Mike’s hockey contributions over the years. He 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 he was awarded the prestigious OMHA Honour Award. This award was established to honour a person who has made an outstanding voluntary contribution to minor hockey for a considerable period of time. Mike was the only local recipient of the award that was established in 1948.
In addition to his MOHA duties, Mike also took an active role in supporting youths in the community. As a coach, he was approached by the Syl Apps Youth Centre to take on two of its charges as players to provide them a recreational outlet and support their rehabilitation.
He established the President’s Fund to support players with financial difficulties and worked with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
While president, Mike also found the time to lend support to the local high school hockey program by serving as head coach for the former Perdue hockey team.
Mike also contributed to the Town’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan, was an ongoing participant as 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.
He never lost his interest in the game.
He is sadly missed by his much-loved wife Debbie and son Road, and all who knew him.
— submitted by Debbie Zardo