CYO: 85 Years Strong! (CYO Minor Hockey)

PrintCYO: 85 Years Strong!

CYO Minor Hockey - 85 Years and Growing Strong!

In the fall of 1934, George Howard met with Father Stanley Cassin, a parish priest at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church and two other members of the parish, George “Ozzie” Darte and Geoff Alexander. The purpose of this meeting was to form a hockey league for the Catholic boys of St. Catharines. As there was no arena in the city at the time, it was decided to play on Martindale Pond and other natural ice surfaces in the area. Howard was always one of the first people at the game along with a carload of boys who cleaned the ice if necessary while he built a campfire on shore over which to make hot chocolate to keep the players warm between shifts. 75_years_logo.JPG

In 1938, Garden City Arena was opened and CYO was the first amateur league to gratefully partake of its facilities. The first league consisted of five teams, playing against teams from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, Thorold, Welland and Port Colborne. Howard served as timekeeper and first aid man, a position he went on to hold for 51 years. George Howard leaves a rich legacy to CYO. Two of his sons, five of his grandsons, and two great grandsons all played CYO Hockey. The girls were also part of the CYO with all three daughters being involved: Mary as secretary, Jacquie as statistician and Kathleen as statistician and secretary over the years. Two parishes, St. Mary’s and Immaculée Conception are still part of the CYO Organization to this day.

From 1942 to 1960, Niagara Peninsula CYO Championship teams played off each year against championship teams from Toronto in the old Maple Leaf Gardens for the Diocesan Championships. During this time, the league was directed by President Geoff Alexander.

cyo_original_logo.jpgIn the late 50's, the league was strictly St Catharines, involving four parishes with 350 boys. Joe Sheehan became president of the league in 1960 and a full executive was installed, including representatives from each parish.

The 60's and 70's saw the league grow to include eleven parishes. Past presidents who have contributed much to CYO included Kerry Howe, Don Moore, Mike Sirotnik, Joe McCaffery and Terry Goldwin.

1988 was a special year for CYO, as it marked 50 continuous years of using Garden City Arena.  They had over 450 boys aged 5-18, playing in six different age brackets and representing five parishes. Past President Peter Lavell, still to this day coaches in 2008 his son Evan with the midget St Alfred Sharks.

In 1993-94, the CYO voted to remove the contact from the Bantam Division, leaving CYO with a non-contact house league.

The 1997-98 hockey season marked the beginning of a new era for St. Catharines CYO. Out was the OMHA and in was the Hockey Alliance of Ontario, a branch of the Ontario Hockey Federation.  Tony Tullo pushed for the introduction  of a Girls Hockey Program. This program was comprised of 8 teams playing in two divisions, junior (5-10 year olds) and Senior (11-15 year olds) In a few years, Junior Division was split to make an Intermediate Division.(8-12 year olds). The CYO was comprised of 57 HL teams representing six parishes within the City of St Catharines. For the first time in CYO history, the league had to play games outside of city limits in order to complete their hockey programs. The league had more than 900 players from tyke to midget. Midget Division was re-introduced with five teams after an absence of six years. Lastly, the association decided it was time to have its' own office building. With this in mind came the construction of our Office and Resource Complex at the north east corner of the Garden City Arena.blackhawks_logo.jpg

Another successful program to begin in 1999-2000 was the CYO Special Needs Program. The team was referred to as the St Catharines CYO Lions. This was a hockey program which supports those with Special Needs, be it physical or developmental, whose goal was to learn and enjoy the game of hockey in its' proper form. The program was established by Joe Fegan and Rick Jones. The players have a weekly on-ice program which entails instructional time in teaching the various elements of the game. The program has close ties and association with Special Hockey International, a group of Programs across North America which carry the same tyke structure and Hockey Program for those with Special Needs. The CYO Lions changed their name to the CYO Heat in 2002-03, due to a sponsorship change to the St Catharines Fire Fighters. Congratulations to Joe, Rick and all the volunteers for all they do for this successful program.

The 2001-02 season marked the inaugural year for the CYO Mite Program. It objectives was to initiate players aged 4 and 5 years old to hockey by developing their skating and introducing basic hockey skills. When this program was first introduced by the CYO, approximately forty young players were anticipated but the response was overwhelming and the season finished with approximately 100 mites on the ice (including 16 young girls). The contributions of our primary sponsor, Tim Hortons, and all the volunteers who helped out both on and off the ice was greatly appreciated. Dave Upper was CYO's first Mite Convenor who supervised the entire program.

The final piece of the puzzle in 2001-02 was to offer 18-20 years old a place to play hockey while finishing their final years of school. The division had 4 teams the first year growing to 6 teams which it is today. Juvenile division broke ranks with the original parish program and formed teams on their own. Team names were selected using old St Catharines teams like the TeepeesFincupsFalcons,Blackhawks, Bruins and Saints. Thanks to George Gadula and Brian Berry for extending CYO's hockey program.  George went on to introduce Alumni hockey for players 21 and older in 2008-09 who still like to take in a game or two. The division hosts 6 teams.

The 2002-03 season opened with 85 house league teams from tyke to juvenile divisions.

The CYO Girls Hockey Program, led by Bob Choquette, introduced three Chaos Rep teams. Much of the credit is given to Bob who built a solid foundation for girl's competitive hockey here in St Catharines in the 2003-04 season.

The year was 2005-06. CYO introduces the Minor Development (MD) hockey category into our program. President Tony Tullo's reasoning behind the introduction was to provide a more competitive brand of hockey within the CYO framework, thus encouraging the more advanced players to leave the house league, creating a greater degree of balance within the house league divisions. Their inaugural season had five teams. They were to be called the Hurricanes. The Girls Hockey Program, led by Bob Choquette, introduced three Chaos Rep teams. Much of the credit is given to Bob who built a solid foundation for girl's competitive hockey here in St Catharines.

2006-07 brought in a new CYO President, Ed Mokrzynski, who introduced a full time administrator whose job was to overlook the everyday business of the league. A full time ice scheduler was also put into place. Ed brought CYO the Alliance House League Championships to St Catharines. Ed and Barry Horne, Director of Girls Hockey at CYO helped form the new St Catharines Female Hockey League which broke away from the CYO umbrella in 2008-09 season. The first year in operation,SCFHA had 425 players. CYO were successful in hosting Hockey Canada Skills Camps for atom and peewee aged players.

The 2007-08 begin with a new logo for CYO Hockey. Anthony Collini, owner of the Evolve Artistic Design, helped design our website and the new CYO logo as it is today. Anthony played in our house league program from tyke to Alumni divisions. Thanks for a great job.

Other people, too many to mention, Bill Keogh served for 27 years, Rolly Pepin, treasurer for 20 years, Mary Howard, secretary for 20 years,  Others were Brian and Ilona Adelstein, Geoff Alexander, Mike Allen, Brian Ambrous, Dario Antidormi,  Bob Barsalou, Kim Bauer,Rick Belic, Brian Berry, Leeanne Boychuk, Tom Buchan, Ed Burdon, Rick and Sue Burgess, Gord Burling, Gord Campbell, Paul Carnegie, Marcel Castonguey, Maurice Charbonneau, Bob Chausse, Bob Choquette, Danny Clark, Mario Colangelli, Tony Collini, Steve and Robin Cotton, Paul Daoust, Pat Darte, George Darte, Gilles DeBernardi, Dennis Delano, Pete D'Elia, Angelo DiGiorgio, George Estrela, Steve and Irene Fabian, John Fardo, Norm and Debra Faris, Joe Fegan, Mike Fegan, Brian Finora, Ken Forgeron, Steve Forgeron, Phil Gaboury, George Gadula, Rick Garbacz, Dave Gerow, Terry Goldwin, Frank Granton, Don Green, Peter Grossi, Norm and Maggie (Gilligan) Habel,Ron Harinck, Bill Hay, Mike and Claudia Hildebrandt, Doug Hopkins, Barry and Karen Horne, George Howard, Kerry Howe, Peter Hunt, David Hurst, Tony Husband, Frank Iker, Rick Jones, Sandra Kalapos, Father Killoran, Graeme Leach, Peter Lavell, Keith Levesque, Keith Lowe, Al Lupish, Darla MacDonald, John MacDonald, Jamie MacDonald, Lori MacDonald, Mike MacIsaac, Joe McCaffery, Connie Mack,Julian Mambello, Rick Martin,  Leigh Martin, Tony Mascitelli, Brian Matuch, Mike McCool, Rick McMullin, Brad Minor, Ed Mokrzynski, Don Moore, Bob Murphy, Alden Paradise, Stan Pawlik, Al Perrault, Jim Potts, Anthony Pontello, Dave Potts, Ralph Sirignano, Debbie Ratkosky, Dave Sabourin, Archie Reynolds, Maurice Robert, Gerri Roberts, Robert Rochefort, Chris Rogers, Mary Rozon, Father Schaefer, Nick Sebastian, John Sheridan, Mike Sirotnik, Mike Smith, Renée Rochefort-Smith, Marjorie Steele, Dave Swindley, John Sykes, Steve Tamas, Father Tonnes, Louis Tremblay, Tony Tullo, Anthony Vani, Dave Varga, Albert Venneri, Dominic Ventresca, Joanne Verroche, Doug Wall, John Walsh, Kelly Walsh, Brian Weir, John Weir, Marty Wild, Stephanie Winstanley, Tom Winstanley, Chris Wittig, Marty Wosley, Greg Yott,  Kathy Zutelli, Alan Zutell, Walter Zutell. We tried hard to include all volunteers who made CYO what it is today. If you know of someone who deserves to be acknowledged, please let us know.

There are also many players currently in the league whose fathers and grandfathers played CYO.

Joe Fegan, 2003-04 CYO President states in his yearbook report: 

"As a former player myself of St Catharines CYO a "few" years ago, I know I share the mutual notion of many who have got involved in good part to give something back to a Program which enlightened us in our younger years and to show thanks and appreciation to those who ran the Program for us and taught us not only the game of hockey - but also a little about life. With that I would like to encourage our many young players to show their thanks and gratitude to your coaches, trainers, Parish and Executive members for this year, but also to show your true appreciation to these people and consider returning the favour and getting involved in helping out in Minor Hockey in some capacity in your future adult years."

Indeed, whenever anyone thinks of CYO, they think of Mr. Hockey, George Howard. Today, his picture hangs in Rex Stimers Arena as a lifelong memorial to this man who dedicated so much of his life to the youth of this city.