Appreciation night held in honour of Bruce Wiggins for 45 years of service to his Manitoulin community

Claudette Myre of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association presents the prestigious Rick F. Albert Memorial Award to Bruce Wiggins of Mindemoya as part of a special community appreciation event held in his honour last week. Mr. Wiggins has been a stalwart volunteer in the community for the past 45 years.

MINDEMOYA—On a special evening when Bruce Wiggins of Mindemoya received the accolades he justly deserves for 45 years of service in the community as a hockey referee, baseball umpire and helping with other organizations in the community, he also received a very prestigious award from the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA).

Claudette Myre of the NOHA was on hand to present this special award to Mr. Wiggins at a community appreciation event held in his honour at the Mindemoya Curling Club on Thursday of last week. “I am very excited and honoured to be able to be here tonight to present this prestigious award to Bruce Wiggins.”

“The Rick F. Albert Memorial Award is to be presented to a person or association who has been instrumental in the area of development within the NOHA,” said Ms. Myre. “The award can be given to an individual involved in coaching, refereeing, training or the initiation programs, one who has developed a program which has been incorporated to the benefit of hockey or a person who has dedicated a great deal of time and effort to development within the NOHA.”

Mr. Wiggins had been nominated for the award and Greg Lockeyer, who was the master of ceremonies for the evening, told the large gathering on hand, “I’m extremely honoured to be here tonight to help congratulate you Bruce for all your years of volunteering. You are one of the most dedicated volunteers I know.”

“When asking for support documents from various hockey enthusiasts from across the Island to accompany the award nomination package, many positive qualities came back describing Bruce as a caring, understanding, community minded, passionate, backbone of local hockey, integrity, ability to call a fair game, all came to light,” said Mr.Lockeyer.

“But perhaps the best characteristic to describe this now retired teacher of 12 years is his wit, sense of humour and his big booming voice which can be heard throughout an arena either praising players or telling them to settle down,” said Mr. Lockeyer. “He has many times been seen talking with the players/coaches, explaining the rules and above all else, been encouraging.”

“In one nominating letter a parent described a scenario that happened in a Mindemoya-Wikwemikong tyke game. The parent recalled how a young Wiky tyke player came up to Bruce at a face-off, talked for awhile, reached for his hand and after dropping the puck, the two grasped hands and, then skated down the ice and throughout the rest of the game,” said Mr. Lockeyer.

Speakers from various organization and groups told how he since he arrived in Mindemoya in 1971 to teach at Central Manitoulin Public School (having retired 12 years ago), he quickly became a big part of the community, having been a coach, assistant coach, trainer, as well as a referee, and an executive member on the Island-wide association executive; umpiring fastball and softball games in leagues on the Island as well as for Manitoulin Special Olympics and the elementary school, Pearson Cup Blooperball, and has volunteered for the Boy Scouts of Canada, local Lions Club, and community recreation board.

As a referee he has mentored and supported many local youth in becoming referees themselves. 

Current and former Manitoulin Island hockey referees gather for a photograph at a special community appreciation event held for Bruce Wiggins of Mindemoya last week. Ms. Wiggins is sitting in the first row, third from the right.
Current and former Manitoulin Island hockey referees gather for a photograph at a special community appreciation event held for Bruce Wiggins of Mindemoya last week. Ms. Wiggins is sitting in the first row, third from the right.

“Volunteers are very important in any community,” stated Richard Stephens, Mayor of Central Manitoulin. “The perfect example of that in Mindemoya is the Wiggins and Cranston combination. Bruce has refereed for 45 years and Wendy has been involved on teams as manager, and their children have played hockey and been referees, and have helped out in the community in various capacities.”

Along with needling Mr. Wiggins, Larry Leblanc provided some of Mr. Wiggins’ background information, noting as well, “all of my sons spoke highly of Bruce as a teacher.”

He told of Mr. Wiggins’ love of golf, and his accomplishments in many other sports over the  years and how it was Sam Bondi who first encouraged him to referee.

“I’m blessed to have been a friend of Bruce and Wendy and their family all these years,” said Mr. Leblanc. “Thank you for everything you’ve done in the community and for me and my family; and I’m sure you will continue to help where it’s needed.”

Although he has retired from teaching, Mr. Wiggins continues to umpire the annual three pitch tournament at CMPS, said Tracy Chapman, principal of CMPS.

Among the many more presentations and congratulations people bade on Mr. Wiggins were players fromthis year’s Mindemoya Minor hockey tyke team (which won the Island championship), Max King, Scarlette Jewell and Thomas Redmond presented Mr. Wiggins with a Mindemoya Minor Hockey Association uniform with the number 71 on the back (denoting when he started his refereeing career).

Delroy Prescott, representing the Ontario Amateur Softball Association, presented Mr. Wiggins with a certificate for outstanding service award on behalf of the Ontario Amateur Softball Association.

“Bruce has served the game of softball and fastball very well over the years,” said Mr. Prescott.

Michael Niven, was one of the many young referees that has, benefitted from Mr. Wiggins mentoring over the years. “I started refereeing when I was 14. I was small and a little intimidated but thanks in large part to Bruce’s mentoring, I am still refereeing.”

“While I no longer live on Manitoulin and no longer referee in the NOHA, I owe the past six years of officiating, my development into the highest levels of minor hockey, and that I hope to another 30 as a referee to Bruce,” said Mr. Niven, who said it was his mentoring, and encouragement to have fun that he is still an official.

“It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be here tonight,” said Gayle Payette. “A great volunteer is a person with a big heart; a heart that is caring, understanding, community minded, understanding and passionate.”

“In Mindemoya and the Manitoulin area, Bruce Wiggins is one of those people that always comes to mind as an integral part of our hockey community,” said Ms. Payette.

“On behalf of all the referees here tonight we would like to thank Bruce for all his time and commitment to refereeing,” said Jason Thibault. “Forty-five years refereeing is a long time. Refereeing is  not an easy job, and it takes a special person, like Bruce to do this.”

Mr. Lockeyer then introduced guest Danny McCourt, officiating manager with the NHL. Previous to this he had a 25 year career as an NHL official, with 1,700 games under his belt.

“As one of your referees, Bruce has been instrumental in encouraging and mentoring many young people into officiating,” said Mr. McCourt. “This is not an easy task but you can see why he has influenced so many by the comments about how committed, and passionate he has been and still is. And how to have fun while officiating, and he is still doing this after 45 years which is incredible.”

While Mr. McCourt noted he officiated 1,700 games, “Bruce has probably doubled that as a referee. Your longevity speaks of your passion for the game.”

“When I started things were very different as a referee,” said Mr. Wiggins. “Nowadays players and parents are very civil. It is nice to still be involved as a referee.”

“I appreciate everyone being here tonight,” said Mr. Wiggins. “You will never know how overwhelmed I am.”

Along with his wife Wendy being on hand for the surprise party, Mr. Wiggins children Angelique (with her husband Joe Hardy and their children Ashlynn and Joshua), Tristan and his wife Adrienne, Ashleigh with her boyfriend Scott Laidlaw, and his son Dave were in attendance.