You might call it a Silver Stick hat trick.
Petrolia’s Ira Downer has served at three levels of International Silver Stick hockey which no one else in the community has; executive director, international director and now commissioner – the top job in the organization.
Fifty-one years ago, Jack Kinsella of Ottawa organized a friendly meeting between his Woodroffe Cardinals and a team from Potsdam, New York and the international hockey tournament was born.
Five years later, Earle Trevail and a group of volunteers organized a regional tournament in Petrolia. Two years in, Downer became involved as the referee in chief. Except for the years he lived in Calgary, Silver Stick has been a huge part of Downer’s life.
He has always helped organize the Petrolia Midget Regional Tournament and as an International Director has been involved with tournaments across southern Ontario.
This year, Downer will not only be hanging around the Petrolia rink helping out, he’ll be at the opening ceremonies of four regional tournaments in less than a week. It’s a busy time, but Downer loves it.
He’s proud to point out that not only has Petrolia run one of the finest Silver Stick tournaments around, it has also helped the minor hockey association raising over $262,000 since 1992.
“We’re such a successful organization because of the commitment of our people,” he says ticking off seven names of directors from the Petrolia Silver Stick who have been working on the project for more than 10 years. Some have as many as 25 years service. “It is a combined effort of these people.”
Downer says that’s true in most of the organizations he sees in his travels as commissioner – particularly those in small town Ontario.
“They’re a tight-knit family, a mainstay of people who work well together,” says Downer adding he’s really looking forward to seeing some of the people he knows through Silver Stick this holiday season.
“I’ve made a lot of good friends,” says Downer. “I really look forward to going up to Wingham because they really have a great group of people.”
Downer will be the commissioner of the international organization for the next year and a half and then will be past-commissioner on the board for another two years before he retires from working with the international board.
While he loves Silver Stick, it is a busy time of the year. This year, however, Downer is looking forward to a little break. The Petrolia Silver Stick won’t start until Dec. 27 instead of Boxing Day.
“This year we’ll have a family Christmas and not worry about Boxing Day and Silver Stick,” he says.