A veteran volunteer with Minor Hockey Associations in Thunder Bay, Albina Dagenais has spent more than three decades in rinks around Thunder Bay, working with timekeepers young and old
Albina Dagenais has not been a timekeeper and assignor for all of her 31 years as a volunteer with Thunder Bay Minor.
She’s a past president of the North End Flames Hockey Association, coached, trained and managed the U15 and U18 Flames in prior years, and also volunteers for the Boys and Girls Club.
She has, however, put her stamp on the position.
“I love timekeeping, I love doing it, but I think my most enjoyable job was running tournaments.” Dagenais says. “I did Thunder Bay [Minor Hockey Association] tournaments for years, and at North End we covered Port Arthur Arena. I loved just being at the rink and being part of the whole atmosphere.
“I’m a go-getter. You just put time aside to do the things you love to do. I wanted my son (then nine, now 40) to have experiences, so my time was put on the back burner. I wanted to make his experience great and anybody else around. I just made the time.”
Sad to see the hockey season go, happy to have it back again in the fall, laughter and sage advice are two hallmarks that shine through for Dagenais.
“Over the years I see kids who either did timekeeping for me or who I saw in the penalty box who are older now,” she says. “They come up and they give you a hug and say, ‘Nice to see you. Thanks for everything you did.’ It’s those kind of occasions that make you feel really good about what you’re doing for hockey.”
Dagenais also volunteers at the breakfast club at St. Anne’s Elementary School.
“I’ve had kids during hockey season come and give me a gift just to thank me for how I treated them in the penalty box. Or how I treat them in the rink.”
For most hockey parents, timekeeping is a task to be avoided – too much going on to keep track. Dagenais uses a book of her own creation to keep the penalties straight.
“You put the two the two teams in there. In the middle you put ‘TIME’ and when people come in you write down the time right away and what the penalty was,” she explains. “If there’s lots happening, you write it down in that book. When it settles down you transfer it to the gamesheet. You can make little notes in there for yourself. It’s the best way to do it. If you try to remember times and put it on the game sheet right away when you look up there could be ten seconds gone.
“I call it the ‘penalty keep book.’ I get my timekeepers one every year. I insist they use it. I’m very anal about what I want done. It makes a big difference if all of a sudden, all hell breaks loose. You’ve got five guys on one side and seven on the other side, you better know exactly what’s happening. If you have that book you can write down all their numbers.
“Trying to do it on the gamesheet, it’s too small, for one, to do it really quickly. With the book you can be sloppy, as long as you can read your writing. When you transfer it to the gamesheet, now it’s legible. You have it all there in chronological order, just transfer it over.”
So, there it is – Timekeeping 101, courtesy of Albina Dagenais.
Wayne Fortes, president of the Thunder Bay Minor Hockey Association, knows the value of Dagenais’ largely unheralded work at the rink.
“Without the volunteers there’s no hockey, there’s no sports, no organizations of any kind,” he says. “Albina’s a key cog in our wheel, there’s no doubt about it. She recruits the timekeepers, she organizes the timekeepers. Meets with them. Makes sure they’re up on all the rules, any changes we are making – especially in the playoffs.
“Just keeping all the slots filled. Especially all through COVID, all the things that were going on. She’d have to make to makes changes either the night prior to the next game or the day of and she’s always managed to keep all the slots filled and ready to go. She’s very organized, very detailed. We have very, very, very few complaints on our timekeepers. Tremendous job.”
And then there’s the advice Dagenais dispenses as easily as timekeeping a game.
“It’s not just about hockey. It’s about life skills, it’s about respect,” she says. “You need to get along with all different types of people. It’s not just the on-ice that’s important. It’s behind the scenes, behind the bench, in the dressing room… It’s not all about the wins. Yeah, it’s nice to win, that’s the bonus.”
You don’t want to mess with Albina Dagenais. She’ll rumble if necessary.
“I’m not here to be anybody’s friend. I’m here for the kids. And my timekeepers, the younger ones, I adopt them the six months of hockey, and then I give them back to their parents. For those six months I support them,” says Dagenais, who sets the bar at 13 or 14 years old for rookie timekeepers. “And I tell my timekeepers, ‘If you make a mistake, own up to it. We can fix it. Don’t try to cover it up. It’ll get ten times worse.’
“My timekeepers know if something happens, if they get harassed, I’ll back them. I will support them. We’ll get something done. It’s a great first job because they learn to concentrate. They learn to work with other people. If they can handle all the noise and the bells and whistles, yelling and all that … I’ve given probably over 100 references to different timekeepers I’ve had. If you’re going to commit to something, you should commit all the way. I’ve always been that way.”
As much as Dagenais supports her crew, there’s a line she won’t cross.
“I also told my timekeepers if they text me, I’m not learning your lingo. I’m too damn old,” she chuckles. “Text me in full sentences or I’m not answering you. And they do.”