Prior to 2005, USA Hockey lacked specific awards to recognize adults who either played hockey or made off-ice contributions to the sport. So USA Hockey, in conjunction with Labatt USA, created the USAdult Ironman of the Year Award plus the USAdult Member of the Year Award.
“It was a collective idea between USA Hockey and Labatt to recognize and celebrate those two types of categories within the adult membership,” USA Hockey Senior Director of Adult Ice Hockey Ashley Bevan said. “It was a matter of bringing an idea to life and selecting a great nominee.
“USA Hockey promotes the game from Mites to adults and has the ability to celebrate adult hockey. But before 2005 there had not been that type of recognition or celebration.”
The Ironman of the Year Award is presented to an American-born player who’s made “outstanding contributions” to USA Hockey. The player’s contributions can be based on performance in past seasons as well as the current season.
“Recognizing those accomplishments of a registered member is of the utmost importance,” Bevan said.
The Member of the Year recipient doesn’t have to be a player. But it does have to be a person who’s made contributions or provided service to an adult hockey program on a local, regional or national basis.
“We receive a lot of nominations from around the country,” Bevan said, while noting that the deadline for filing nomination forms for this year is April 15. “The council considers them and looks at the forms, which include their accomplishments and playing history.
“Because we get so many nominations, this makes it difficult to select a good candidate. But that’s a good problem to have.”
Woodbury, Minn. native Steve Peterson, who’s the Adult Hockey Association president, received the 2010 USAdult Member of the Year Award.
Even three years later he still recalls his reaction when he learned he was that year’s recipient.
“I really was thrilled,” Peterson said. “I just think the award means a lot to me because I put a lot of time and energy into this great sport and introduce it to people.
“It wasn’t something I lobbied for. Hockey has been a passion during my adult life and I wasn’t expecting it. For USA Hockey to recognize individuals that don’t get paid for this means a lot, especially with all the time I put into it.”
Peterson, admittedly, didn’t begin playing adult hockey until he returned home from grad school at Washington State. What’s ironic is he began playing hockey at a very young age but stopped playing in high school.
“My dad had me in skates when I was 5 or 6,” Peterson said. “He would make a rink on the side of our house. When we moved and I went into high school, I quit playing hockey.
“That probably wasn’t the best decision I ever made.”
Fortunately for Peterson, he made a better decision after a conversation with a good friend, Robbie Larsen.
“What happened the year I was at Washington State was Robbie had started playing in an adult hockey program and came home for a holiday break,” Peterson said. “I skated with him for fun. I was out there and really missed playing.
“Some guys we were with were learning how to skate, and I could skate backwards.”
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Peterson first became involved with the AHA in 2003. At the time, it consisted of only 38 teams. Now the AHA has 120 teams spread over nine different divisions, including women’s divisions.
“In my opinion we have a league that focuses on a level of play for every player including beginners,” Peterson said. “Minnesota has a lot of non-hockey players that I would welcome to the sport.
“You come across people who would be transplants and want to learn the sport. We’ll take players that have never been on ice before and at the end of the program are on the ice playing competitively.”
Not surprisingly, many adults who become involved with hockey do so because their children play the sport and they want to follow suit.
“The motto we use is ‘Hockey for Life,’” Peterson said. “No matter the skill level, we’ll find a place for you. We’re a big proponent of playing hockey. It’s a great exercise for mind and body.
“I don’t think the growth would have happened without the help of USA Hockey. It’s been very important over the years.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.