Ron Cooper presented with first Randy Thibault Memorial Award

Ron Cooper, second on right, receives the Randy Thibault Memorial Award.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Manitoulin Minor Hockey Association (MMHA) recognized three award recipients at a volunteer appreciation event held May 27 in the Mindemoya curling club. The MMHA presented the Jack Clark most deserving official award to Mike Payette (which was highlighted last week), the Randy Thibault memorial award to Ron Cooper, and recognized Greg Lockeyer for receiving the Northern Ontario Hockey League Angus Campbell Merit Award. The Expositor is profiling each of the award winners over three weeks. This week we are profiling Ron Cooper.

MINDEMOYA—It is obvious with the comments of those who had nominated him and those who supported the nomination of Ron Cooper that he is a very deserving winner of the first Randy Thibault Memorial Award. The award is presented to someone other than a player that has made an outstanding contribution to hockey on Manitoulin Island. This person has gone above and beyond the call of duty to promote and represent hockey on our Island.

“Ron Cooper has been a coach, assistant coach and trainer for the past 22 years plus. He has been a president of Manitowaning Minor Hockey and a community representative for the Manitoulin Minor Hockey Association (MMHA),” wrote Jason Thibault (son of the late Randy Thibault), in a letter read by Mary-Jo Wabano, vice president of the MMHA at the recognition event held in May. “He is very knowledgeable about the rules and the game of hockey, and I firmly believe over the years he thinks the old rules of the Intermediate C league should apply in most instances. Ron has been a valuable resource for the local association and that is why we are here tonight with our first Randy Thibault Memorial Award as Randy also spent over 40 years involved in helping shape hockey on Manitoulin.”

“Over the years Ron has supported kids in hockey, so much in fact, he tried convincing MMHA executive one night that he could save families money by not wearing protective equipment and that shin pads, elbow pads and shoulder pads are optional when he played back in the Sabre days,” quipped Ms. Wabano, reading the letter.

Mr. Thibault explained, “I have had the privilege of working with Ron as a hockey official, where he refused to wear ear guards so that he could hear all the compliments and cheers from the players, fans and coaches for all his great calls.”

“And I have played hockey in the 40 and over division as a player and he is passionate about the game, but also understand that it is just a game, we give our best effort and prepare for the next,” wrote Mr. Thibault. “I am appreciative that MMHA has decided to honour my father with a memorial award and cannot think of anyone more deserving. You are a true ambassador of the game and most deserving. The game of hockey does not exist without the continued contributions and commitment from individuals such as yourself.”

“Randy and I used to fight in our senior hockey playing days,” quipped Mr. Cooper. “I am very honoured to receive this award.”

The Manitowaning Wolves executive nominated Mr. Cooper for the award and wrote in part, “Manitowaning Minor Hockey is delighted to put forward the nomination of Ron Cooper for the Randy Thibault Memorial Award. Ron has been around, well, forever. When the ice goes in, he lives and breathes hockey. He has served as a coach, assistant coach or trainer for the past 22 years.”

“He served as president of Manitowaning Minor Hockey Association and as the community rep for Manitoulin MMHA. While he no longer sits in an executive role, he is still the person that we turn to when we need advice and guidance.”

Mr. Cooper, “certainly has a colourful hockey past and it is so fun to hear the stories of the old days with Randy, Bob Dumond and Greg Lockeyer. But humour aside, Ron has been involved in hockey for that long and has volunteered for all those years. Ron brings wisdom and history to the table when it comes to executive decisions. He knows what has worked and what hasn’t. Ron has seen the game of hockey change so much in those decades that he served for Manitoulin that he really has become someone to seek out for advice.”

“On the bench or in the dressing room, Ron expects nothing less than your best effort,” the Manitowaning Minor Hockey executive wrote. “Mistakes are overlooked, but not trying your hardest is not. Ron goes into every game expecting to win. Even when he has coached teams that have never won a game. He takes that positive attitude to his players and on the ice. The kids just don’t learn how to play great hockey, they learn how to be a good sport, how to continue to try and how to never give up.”

“One of the greatest things we can say about Ron is as bad as a game may be, once the buzzer goes signalling the game is over, it’s done. There is no negative impact, no hard feelings, he is simply thinking about the next practice and what the teams need to work on,” the nomination continues. “We would say that every association needs a Ron Cooper, but we would never trade him for the world.”

Bob Dumond wrote, “to Mr. Ron Cooper, congratulations on being awarded the Randy Thibault Memorial Award. Your contributions to minor hockey cannot be quantified as I’m sure others can attest to. You are an appropriate choice for what this award stands for and the person behind it. Randy would be proud.”

Greg Lockeyer said of Mr. Cooper, “my friendship with Ron began 41-42 years ago when we were both attending MSS. We both had the same interest in sports.”

“With everything you have done for minor hockey on Manitoulin Island, and Manitowaning, you are very deserving of this honour,” said Mr. Lockeyer.

“During my years of involvement in minor hockey Ron has been a coach, referee and support person. I want to thank you so much for your dedication and contributions to the game,” said Gayle Payette. “Randy (Thibault) would be honoured that you are the first recipient of this award.”

“As we all know, Randy was an excellent ambassador for Manitoulin Island hockey,” said Mr. Cooper. “We wouldn’t have minor hockey on the Island without him and some others.”