When Keith Barrett stepped into his role as vice president of USA Hockey and Youth Council chair on Jan. 19 of this year, he was hoping for a traditional honeymoon period to get established.
Needless to say, that didn’t happen. With COVID-19 sweeping its way into the United States, Barrett was involved in making the difficult decision in mid-March to cancel the youth national championships. It was baptism by fire for Barrett in one of the lead volunteer roles at USA Hockey.
USA Hockey had to fill the vacant seat for vice president/Youth Council chair when longtime USA Hockey volunteer Dave Klasnick, who held the position for 13 years, passed away in August 2019.
Since Barrett had been on the Youth Council as a New England District representative for eight years, he was a prime candidate to take on an expanded role and he received plenty of support from his USA Hockey peers.
“Keith Barrett has done a terrific job out of the gate in a difficult situation,” said Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey. “His leadership style is one of quiet strength. He has a depth of past experience which includes being the president of an affiliate, working in player development, national championships, coaching education as well as still being an on-ice official. Keith’s closeness to the grassroots of our organization has certainly helped him in his leadership abilities. I look forward to working with Keith for many years to come.”
“I don’t know everything. I don’t have the answers to everything. But collectively, we’re going to work to come up with the solutions, come up with the answers,” Barrett said. “So, my leadership style is, OK, let’s get some critical thinkers in here, let’s think about what needs to be done and let’s put our minds together. We’re all equals at the table. I don’t care if I’m the chair or not, we’re all equal at the table.”
The 62-year-old, who lives in Northfield, Vermont, is kept busy with his day job as the director of equipment operations at PC Construction Company.
“Next to hockey, it’s my passion,” Barrett said.
Barrett has had a long journey on and off the ice to become the vice president of USA Hockey.
It all started in about 1985 when Barrett signed up his 4-year-old son for a learn-to-skate program through Southern Connecticut Youth Hockey (SCYH). Barrett, who grew up playing pond hockey and then in high school as well, jumped on the ice with his son.
A few months into the program, Barrett was approached by some longtime members in the association and asked him if he was interested in getting on the board. Barrett couldn’t say no. After one year on the board, he took over as president of the SCYH for three years. He got out of the leadership roles with hockey in the early ‘90s, but continued to coach.
When Barrett and his family moved to Vermont, he wanted to check out the landscape of hockey in the new town he was in, Northfield. In 2003, Barrett attended a youth hockey meeting, which unbeknownst to him happened to be the annual meeting. There was turmoil amongst parents as Barrett sat back and digested everything. He eventually stood up and gave the association members some advice. What he said resonated with the people, and Barrett was impromptu voted to be the president of Northfield Amateur Hockey Association. He served in that position for three years before moving on again.
Barrett got a little time off before he was asked if he’d like to become the vice president of the Vermont State Amateur Hockey Association. The timing worked well as he had wanted to get involved at the affiliate level. He spent two years as vice president followed by three years as president. In 2012, he was elected as one of four New England District representatives on the USA Hockey Board of Directors.
“I had a hankering for driving the bus,” Barrett said. “Unfortunately, when David passed, I said, ‘You know what, I think I can do this. I know I can do this. I know I can do it effectively.’”
Since Barrett has stepped in as Youth Council chair, he started a committee — a fun one, as he describes it — called the Blue Sky National Tournament Committee. It will look at the entire structure of the national tournaments and make the event more of an “experience” for players, coaches and parents.
“Why is there a Williamsport in little league baseball but not something like that in youth hockey?” Barrett said. “I put a group of people together who are critical thinkers as well as outside influencers. It will be great to see what ideas they come up with.”
Barrett says there are a wide range of issues addressed by the Youth Council on a regular basis and he’s thankful for all the support he has received.
“The members of the Youth Council have been great,” said Barrett. “We are fortunate to have a group that is focused having hockey be the best youth sports option for families in communities all across the country.”
Less than four months into his new role, Barrett is making a difference and he’s looking forward to helping hockey continue to grow and evolve for many more years to come.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.