Within Sudbury minor hockey circles, the name of Ron Didone is synonymous with the Copper Cliff Minor Hockey Association. Small wonder. For the past thirty years or so, the graduate of St Charles College has been involved with the CCMHA, in one capacity or another.
Yet in many ways, he is far more "Sudbury" than "Copper Cliff" (for those who still make the distinction).
"My dad's family originated in Copper Cliff, but dad and one of my uncles moved to Sudbury early on," said Didone. "We lived on the corner of Byng and Lorne, so I spent a lot of my outdoor time at Byng Playground with the Bradley brothers, and the Armstrongs and the Paquettes. We had a lot of kids around there."
At a time when playground hockey was huge, Didone did eventually progress through to "midget hockey downtown", in addition to playing at school with the Cardinals, but no further. "I was a middle of the road athlete," he suggested.
"I wasn't exceptional in any sport, but I was decent." A student internship would lead to a career in accounting, twenty years with his first employer before his current long-standing tenure. "Twenty-nine years ago, Don Rastall (Rastall Nut and Bolt Company) called me, and I have been here ever since."
That experience would eventually come into play with the CCMHA, though not right out of the gate. After a couple of years of coaching in Sudbury with his brother-in-law, Didone would make his way to Copper Cliff, enrolling his son Blake, though still residing in the south end of the city.
"I went from being a parent to a coach," he said. "When he got to bantam age, I went back and started with my daughter (Leslie)." But where the overwhelming majority of parent-coaches leave the field the moment their children move on, Didone stuck around.
"My first approach was just to help out, but I would end up taking a team for years. The division I most enjoyed coaching was the atoms. They're nine and ten, they had a concept of what you were trying to teach them, and they could tie their own skates."
"It was back-breaking if you had about 14 pairs to do. I stayed in atom for a long time." Midway through his stretch of coaching, one that easily covered some 15-20 years in the houseleague ranks, Didone would broaden his horizons.
"Alex Miglioranza was treasurer for the CCMHA and he was eager to retire," recalled the 66 year-old volunteer. "Knowing that I had accounting background, they approached me and I've been treasurer ever since." Twenty years now on his impressive resumé. But there was more.
"I started the Mickey Mouse program in Copper Cliff, working with Rick O'Brien and John Dediana. And I look after the (city famous) porketta bingos at the Beef n Bird. We just finished our 13th year."
Though it is easy to draw the immediate link with Didone to the financial side of hockey, he remains steadfast that coaching is where his reputation was staked. "I've always enjoyed coaching, I enjoyed teaching the kids," he said.
"Most of the time, I had no children on the team. When I talked to parents at the beginning of the year, I said my job is not about winning and losing, it's about making the team better in March than it was in September. If that happens, I've done my job."
"The people who know me, know me more as a coach," Didone continued. "I was fortunate to get a lot of good guys to help me out." Like most sports organizations in the area, Copper Cliff is looking to add new blood. Still, it just won't be the same when the likes of Didone and Ken Creasey are not around the table.
"Ken has been there forever," said Didone with a laugh. "We all get along, everyone has got their job to do, nobody is stepping on someone else's toes. We're a small board and we get things done. Right now, we're going through some turnover."
"We've gone to the younger generation, because they are the guys who have to take over." Like many an active volunteer, Didone does not limit himself. For three decades or more, he has also been involved heavily with the Inner City Home of Sudbury, through it all, with his wife Connie at his side.
"This city has been good to me, so I want to give back." As for the success that Copper Cliff hockey has enjoyed over the years, Didone credits a small cluttered meeting area, situated almost directly opposite the referees' room at McClelland Arena.
"I think the best thing is that our office is right there at the Copper Cliff arena, and our door is always open." And come June 14th, Ron Didone will walk through another door, joining an impressive list of inductees in the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame.