I have three loves in life – my family, hockey and the Canadian Armed Forces. And all three are deeply intertwined.
I suppose I should start with who I am. I am a rear-admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy, serving as commander of Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC), the Naval Forces in the Pacific Ocean in Canada. I'm also the commander for the entire Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in British Columbia. Basically, I’m the senior military leader on the West Coast.
I am also lucky enough to be the patron for hockey in the CAF; this means I advocate for the game, which is pretty easy … after all, it’s hockey! I work with our military personnel team in Ottawa to make sure the funding is there for the hockey program, to keep our regional and national championships going, in addition to the hockey on the ice at bases from B.C. to Newfoundland & Labrador.
It’s something I love doing, because hockey has been such a big part of who I am for as long as I can remember.
I grew up in Cumberland, B.C., in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. I lived across the street from the hockey box (we never really got cold enough for an outdoor rink) and played there as often as I could. I first got on the ice with my sister, Susan, who was a figure skater, when I was four or five years old, so by the time I got into organized hockey a few years later, it was a bit of a natural thing – I could already skate well and had been playing the game in the box for a long time.
I was very fortunate. We were a relatively small town, but there was a group of us around my age we were pretty good. None of us were fantastic, but we had a very talented team. Almost half went on to play junior hockey, university or college. We had real success for six or seven years, even winning a few provincial titles along the way.
And playing with the same kids year after year, they become my best friends. By the time I finished high school, I played hockey with the same group for almost 10 years. That's who I spent all my time with. I was on the ice there five, six days a week playing competitive hockey. And because we were successful, we got to play a lot.
Even now, more than 30 years after I finished playing minor hockey, my best friends are guys from the Valley that I played with. We all followed different paths – I'm in the Navy, we’ve got an investment advisor, the head of maintenance for the school board, an environmental engineer – but we still get together. We're 50 years old, but up until not too long ago we still got together to play in tournaments. The fun is still there. The connection is still there.
The game isn’t always about the here and now, what you’re accomplishing today. It’s about the memories and friends you will have for a lifetime, long after the final buzzer has sounded on your hockey career.