Glen Dart hockey tourney going on 60 – still spinning grass roots

By Terrance Gavan
The Glen Dart tourney is on the cusp of a milestone.
Next year the home town, home grown, and homespun recreation league tourney turns 60.
That’s some run.
And a testament to a community and a county that takes its hockey – at all levels – very seriously.
The tournament remembers a guy who loved the game.
Patrick, our managing editor, gave me the skinny on the Dart’s poignant past last week.
“During the 1930s and 40s, the Dart family, who owned and operated the village bakery, were great supporters of the game,” says Patrick. (He wrote a nice little piece a few years back that still graces the program.) “Reg Dart coached at many levels, and his sons Jack and Glen were prominent players. Glen is recalled as one of best players Haliburton produced during his era: in the war years Glen played for the RCAF in Moncton, and at home for the Haliburton Huskies.”
Patrick says that Glen later became the Haliburton’s Recreation Director and he mentored a legion of Haliburton shinny tots.
“Glen Dart coached all the minor hockey teams, so practically a whole generation of Haliburton players were touched by his genuine love of the game,” says Patrick. “In 1951, tragedy struck the Dart family. Glen suffered a serious concussion during a hockey game, and died later that same year.
“A committee was soon formed to organize a suitable memorial and a year later, in 1952, the first annual Glen Dart Memorial Hockey Tournament took place. The original committee consisted of Joe Iles, Fred Nieman, Ron Curry, Albert LaRue, and Berkley Feir.”
The memorial tourney has been running ever since.
This year it becomes just a tad more poignant, as talk in the hockey world hinges around head trauma.
We should remember that even back in 1951 players were not immune to the vagaries of concussive blows to the head.
The original Glen Dart Tournament was, by design, an entirely local affair, says Patrick who interviewed Scotty LaRue, a tyke participant in the first Glen Dart. LaRue remembers that some of the local villages could only ice “two or three players who could play: the rest of the team would be filled out a bunch of really little guys.”
I was out at the arena last Saturday and that holds true to this day.
Games are played running time and the buzzer, signaling mandatory line changes, sounds every two minutes.
I saw a talented 4 foot goalie set aside a blistering wrist shot delivered by a 5’11” bruiser in one afternoon game. Just seconds later the same tiny girl stopped a low drive glove side.
Girls and guys, short and tall all played together.
The Glen Dart is truly an inspirational season ender for a rec league with its eyes firmly on the puck.
It’s a league that puts “recreational” back into the rec league.
Rob Meyers, who has been the de facto CEO of this nifty little vehicle for the past ten years or so, says the Highlands’ executive – yes, Meyers is one of those ubiquitous Haliburton sport organizers that is loath to take any credit for his volunteer hours – is dedicated to providing an atmosphere that eschews the normal mano-a-mano house league template.
He says the end of season Glen Dart pretty well sums up the recreation league’s unique paradigm.
“It was good,” says Meyers. “It’s basically just a chance on our last weekend for every team to get together, play two games and end our season in a good way.”
Rob says that the executive will be having a meeting in the upcoming weeks, and he explains that he will be stepping away from his formal duties in order to concentrate on coaching, clinics and other initiatives which have allowed the house league to flourish in the past.
“The season is run as recreational based hockey,” says Meyers. “They amalgamated from the old Haliburton Huskies and Minden Monarchs.”
He says that the current executive’s mandate has been to place as many willing bodies on the ice as possible.
“We want to get as many kids as possible playing in a house league,” says Meyers. “It’s very recreational. We don’t keep standings we try to develop hockey skills as best we can. Our objective is to get them out there, no pressure; just fun.”
Some nights when a team is short players they can borrow players from another team.
There is camaraderie between opposing coaches. More of a collective mindset.
“Everyone gets equal ice time and it’s worked really well,” says Meyers. “Of course you want to keep going and try to make it better. Some of the things we did this year was trying to get our coaches more educated, running and attending clinics so volunteer coaches could run better practices.
Meyers adds that educated coaches are key to a successful house league.
The league had about 175 kids enrolled this season, a pretty remarkable number considering that there are also a large number of kids playing rep league with the Highland Storm organization.
Meyers says that volunteer coaches were the core and key to this league way back when Glen Dart was tapping shoulders; and coaches are front and center today, 60 years later.
“Our association pays for coaching clinics,” he says. “Recruiting volunteers is hard and if you tell them that you also have to pay to go to Peterborough for a course that’s very difficult. So we sponsor our coaches to go.”
He says that the clinics provide a milieu where coaches are able to translate modern techniques in a very stress free environment. And it’s working.
“In 10 or 11 years I have never heard a parent get mad at a ref or yell at a player or a ref,” laughs Meyers.
We even have 14 to 17 year-olds playing with no problems. They all know each other, they try very hard to win, but there’s never any issues.”
And, says Meyers, he’s most proud of the parents, who were out in full force last Friday and Saturday.
“It was great to see everyone in the stands cheering on their sons and daughters,” says Meyers.
And I’ll let you in on a little secret.
Most of the parents were cheering for both teams.
A win-win and a refreshing change from the partisan antipathy that sidecars a lot of urban rep league games.
The Glen Dart may be a senior citizen.
But it’s tracking remarkably young for its age.
And Rob Meyers?
Stepping back, but not out.
Regardless.
His mentorship and dedication will be missed.
Email gav@countyvoice.ca; twitter.com/terrancegavan.