On May 7th (2016), at the NOHA (Northern Ontario Hockey Association) AGM in Timmins, Sudbury Minor Hockey Association vice-president of houseleague operations, Tammy Simpson, was awarded the Ken Neeb Memorial Award, recognizing “outstanding contribution to minor hockey in Northern Ontario.”
In one fell swoop, some fifteen plus years of minor hockey volunteerism were acknowledged, as the native of Moncton (New Brunswick) noted an interesting and meandering path to the role that she currently plays in a variety of hockey-related groupings.
As is so often the case, Simpson owes her involvement to the recognition of another, someone who noticed, early in her son’s hockey career, the potential that lie within the mother of two. “When Chris (son) moved into novice hockey, I started volunteering at the bingo that Lucy Eadie ran to help offset the costs of hockey,” said Simpson.
Not long thereafter, Eadie convinced Simpson to attend an SMHA AGM with her, a move that eventually led to the latter joining the board of the SMHA. After two years as a general board member, Simpson was entrusted with the newly-created role of V-P of Houseleague Hockey Operations, a position she continues to hold to this day.
“My views have changed and evolved, over my years of being involved in hockey,” she said. “I don’t like it when people talk down about players who decide to “just play houseleague” hockey. I still get annoyed at that comment.”
“Players should be playing hockey where they want to play hockey, but I also believe that players should play at the highest level of hockey that they are capable of playing,” she said. Recent years of involvement have tended to keep Simpson increasingly more busy with the competitive ranks, including managing the SMHA “AAA” Wolves for a handful of years, and now serving as Secretary-Treasurer of the Northern Ontario “AAA” Hockey League.
It provides her with an interesting perspective, given her acknowledgement that her heart sits first and foremost with the recreational ranks. “The grassroots programs are where these “AAA” players develop,” she said. “That’s where our competitive players become competitive players.”
And while she enjoys having her fingers in several different pies, there is easily one commitment that she holds extra special, creating and now co-chairing the Wayne and Lucy Eadie Spirit of Hockey Tournament every February.
“I’m thankful to Mister and Mrs. Eadie for getting me started in hockey,” she said. “They mentored me. They had done so much for the SMHA over the years, and that’s why I named the tournament after them.”
Yet the bigger tribute, perhaps, might well be the legacy that Tammy Simpson will leave behind, eventually, when she inevitably backs away from her heavy involvement with minor hockey in Sudbury.