Schedules. Waiting for the hockey schedule is like waiting to open birthday presents – a lot of excited hockey players are bouncing on their blades to find out when they play … Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the posting of the schedule is pretty much the official kick-off to the season. And that’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?
Preparing the schedule is a lot harder than one might imagine. Just ask Paul Jefferson, one of our CRHL veterans. He’s been a member of the board of directors for more than thirteen years. His son has gone through the league as a player, and is now coaching one of his own teams. Yet Paul comes back year after year to volunteer his time to this fantastic organization, with no more motivation than the knowledge that “it’s for the kids.”
In the weeks leading up to the start of the season, Paul is busy at home matching up the teams and slotting them in for the entire year. “I end up putting in a lot of my free time,” he admits. “It’s gotten better over the years because I get better at it each time. You know, you get quicker, and you know what to look for. But still, it’s a real time commitment.”
There are many factors that go into building a schedule that people may not realize. For one, the Clarington Recreational Hockey League is just one of several organizations vying for the same ice time. Figure skating, power skating, speed skating, public skating, rep hockey, adult leagues, tournaments – everyone wants ice. With only so much rink space to go around, the municipality has to portion out the region’s limited facilities so that everyone gets what they need. This makes scheduling difficult for Paul, who has a finite portion of ice to work with for all of CRHL’s divisions and teams. And to ensure that teams are given the opportunity to book outside tournaments throughout the season, the schedule for the entire year has to be done at the start to allow players, coaches and parents to manager their own commitments.
It may also surprise you to learn that Paul regularly goes to battle with the city about whether to give ice back or not … of course, we’re teasing when we say that. Understandably, the municipality does not want organizations keeping ice it doesn’t need, and is anxious to know how much ice time has been returned so that it can be redistributed. It’s Paul’s job to make sure he holds onto ice time for as long as he can (within reason) to ensure that only the right amount of ice, if any, is given back. It’s also Paul’s job to answer to the municipality when they want hard figures that he’s not yet ready to give. That’s a big ask of any volunteer, but he does it because, as he says, “It’s for the good of the league. When our credo is ‘every kid gets to play,’ we need to make sure we have the ice. We do it for the kids, first.”
At least some things remain constant. Paul is used to working with Orono and Newcastle, who are separate organizations that schedule their own practices and games, and has become accustomed to merging multiple schedules into one. Also, the younger divisions will never be on the ice in the later time slots, so he knows to work the older divisions into those spaces first to open up as many age-appropriate ones as possible. With these and other consistent factors, Paul has built up quite a refined process for putting the schedules together. Of note, it’s a process that has taken years to develop.
At the end of it all, Paul is confident in the schedules he builds. “I do make mistakes,” he admits. “Sometimes you get it done, and you don’t realize a team is missing a practice. So there is that element of human error. But if I know something’s wrong, I’ll fix it. At the end of the day I have to accept that you can’t make everyone happy, but I always aim to make as many people happy as possible.”
Paul Jefferson is just one of the many dedicated volunteers at the Clarington Recreational Hockey League spending their free time to open up opportunities like local hockey for our kids. Thanks, Paul, for all you do to make sure our kids can play.