Seeing is believing.
Labor of love.
Take your pick, but each of the above phrases is appropriate when describing Massachusetts Hockey third vice president and American Development Model chair Don Derosia.
Over the last several months, the Chicopee native has packed a set of boards in a trailer and traveled around the state espousing the virtues of USA Hockey’s ADM.
“We’ve run into a few spots where parents were resisting,” Derosia said. “At the end of the day, after we took four hours of ice time and set up dividers, they saw their kids play on a half-sheet of ice from red line to goal line and play with full-sized nets plus 4-on-4 or 5-on-5. They were able to skate behind the net and skate behind the boards, which didn’t fly all over the place.
“The general consensus was, ‘If this is the direction of Mite hockey at the 7-under and 8-under level next year, we can accept this, and it’s a good alternative.’”
Briefly, that’s the seeing-is-believing aspect of Derosia’s trips.
The labor of love is a completely different story.
Derosia owns a tree service business. Last year, a tree fell on his leg and fractured it in three spots. After three operations, he contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome, when a person’s immune system attacks the person’s nervous system.
“I was paralyzed the next day,” Derosia said. “I was in a rehab unit and had to be taught how to do everything over again. It’s more to the extreme than a stroke because you’re paralyzed from the neck down.
“It was a very scary time in my life because I’m self-employed. But it made me look at things differently. I’m semi-retired now. I’m able to outsource [work] and have more time available and I really enjoy this. With that extra time I have available, I’m able to get to places during the week.”
The “places” that Derosia travels to primarily are in Boston, including the North Shore and the South Shore.
On a “typical” weekend, he leaves his home at 4 a.m. in order to arrive at a rink by 6 a.m. and have the dividers set up by 7.
“What I’ve tried to do throughout the last four months is schedule myself to get to one place on a Friday night, two on Saturday and one on Sunday so I’m doing four rinks in three days,” Derosia said. “It’s a hectic schedule. But I’ve had an opportunity to meet some great volunteers — people who are true to their heart when it comes to youth hockey.
“They give the term volunteer a totally new meaning.”
Derosia admittedly would be remiss if he didn’t credit his wife, Bonnie, for her support during his endeavors to promote the ADM.
“I’ve given up a lot of weekends and a lot of family time,” he said. “I’ve put my family in some instances second to everything I’ve been doing. My reasoning is this is a very important time for Massachusetts Hockey and for the growth of hockey in the state.
“It was very important for me to get out there with these dividers as often as I could and to be sure I could honor everybody’s request. Bonnie’s been very understanding. I really have to thank her for her understanding.”
Last year, Massachusetts Hockey made a proposal in conjunction with adjacent states to USA Hockey that said the organization wanted to make the sport age-appropriate for 6U and 8U.
“Age-appropriate enables us to divide a rink at center ice,” Derosia said. “If you were 6 and under, the proposal we put forth meant you had to play cross ice. You can’t play full-ice games. When you’re 7 and 8, it could be half-ice with the dividers. Then, from Jan. 1 through the end of the season, the 7s and 8s are allowed to play 10 full-ice games and one five-game maximum tournament.
“That was the proposal USA Hockey approved for us.”
Derosia noted that when USA Hockey held its summer meetings last year in Colorado, it “helped with the cost of some of the rink dividers.”
Along with Massachusetts Hockey President Keri-Anne Allen and Executive Director Kevin Kavanaugh, one set of dividers was set up in western Massachusetts, one in central Massachusetts, one on the North Shore and one on the North Shore.
“By having them in those rinks we could begin the process of showing people what the dividers could do,” Derosia said. “We got into a working relationship with a company in Minnesota [Becker Arena Products]. Kevin got the groundwork done and I took over from there and worked with the people at Becker doing some modifications with the dividers.
“They sent me a set of rink dividers that I could tour the state with to all these associations that requested me.”
But since the dividers wouldn’t exactly fit in the trunk of Derosia’s car, he asked Allen and Kavanaugh if Massachusetts Hockey could purchase a trailer in which the dividers would fit.
“My goal is I truly love the kids,” Derosia said. “When I hop in my truck and bring that trailer out to the rinks, I get satisfaction from watching kids smile to the point where I can help these kids in the way that they should be helped so we can have the majority of our kids being like the guys who played on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team who were mostly from Minnesota and Massachusetts.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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