This is the second installment of an occasional column, What’s Your Story?, which profiles ordinary individuals who largely fly under the radar as they leave a positive footprint in their communities.
Famous people who crave the spotlight are a dime a dozen. The South Shore’s true treasures are the men, women and children who contribute from the shadows. They have interesting stories to tell.
Bridgewater native Jeremy Stevens, 35, has been involved with team sports all his life.
Although none of his three children plays hockey, Stevens was elected recently to the position of president of the South Shore Minor Hockey Association.
I sat down with Stevens to learn about him and his family, sports background, and goals for the association, whose membership is comprised of 266 males and 25 females.
Following are my questions, and Stevens’ candid answers:
Q: Where did you grow up, and attend school?
A: I was born and raised in Bridgewater, attending Bridgewater Elementary School and Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School.
After high school I went to Dalhousie University. Word got out that I played hockey, so I was asked to play Junior B in Sackville. Then the next year I took a year off school and played Junior A in Woodstock, New Brunswick. A year later I stopped playing hockey and went back to school, this time to St. Mary’s. I never did complete my degree.
Q: Tell me about your family growing up. Do you still have family in the area?
A: I have one sister who was heavily into figure skating. Mom followed her around, while Dad shuttled me everywhere I had to go for hockey. My parents were laid back and didn’t get too excited about whether we made the team or not. It was up to us what sports we played. My sister and I have great parents. My dad is a plumber by trade and my mom is a registered nurse. She worked at South Shore Regional Hospital for 25 years and now works for Victorian Order of Nurses in the Valley.
Q: What is your employment history, and what do you do for a living now?
A: After university I came back home to Bridgewater and got a job selling real estate, but I was so young and it didn’t pan out. I worked for Dexter Construction for a couple of years, then I found a job at Lakeside Communications, a contractor for Eastlink. I have been there for eight years, and currently work as an insulation technician.
Q: You played team sports growing up. Do you still play?
A: I played hockey and baseball primarily. I also played basketball up to Grade 9 but the commitment to hockey took over. I had to pick hockey or basketball and I chose hockey. As soon as the hockey season was over in April, I switched over to baseball until hockey started again in September. I didn’t think about hockey all summer. Looking back, that might have been a mistake, career-wise.
I played baseball at Dalhousie and played in the Canadian university championships in 2008.
I’m still involved in baseball as a certified national level 4 umpire, and I’m looking forward to umpiring at my third national tournament, the U17 Canada Cup, in Fort McMurray next summer.
Q: Your children don’t play hockey, so why did you get involved with the South Shore Minor Hockey Association?
A: My wife and I have three great children – a nine-year-old girl, four-year-old boy and three-year-old boy. Our boys don’t play hockey yet. I got involved with the association because I can go to the rink and have fun watching someone else’s kids play. Many of my friends have kids playing hockey and they wanted someone they could trust won’t have an agenda that might cause negativity within the association. I want to foster a culture of positivity, right down to the kids who play.
Q: How has your involvement been received by association members, parents and players?
A: After I was voted in as president, I received an influx of texts, emails, phone calls and Facebook messages congratulating me. People were looking forward to seeing what I was going to do on the board and the direction we were going to take.
The people who reached out to me expressed that they were excited to have on the board a fresh face who hasn’t been around the association. Actually, the response has been really positive.
Q: Do you have any ambitious plans to increase the interest in minor hockey in this region?
A. Overall, the number of players is down in Nova Scotia and, in fact, across Canada. The younger levels, ages four to six, are pretty steady, though. We want to focus on the development of those players going up the ranks and keeping them in the program. The problem is, when you get to peewee and bantam, the kids want to do other things. You are going to lose some of them, so you have to try to keep as many kids as possible interested in hockey going forward.
Q: How are you going to accomplish that?
A: Our development program is headed up by the new vice-president, Paul McCallion. Great guy. I am confident we will get the best out of the players, and when they see positive results in their progress, and they have fun on the ice, they will want to keep coming back to the association to play hockey.
The financial aspect is important, too. Fundraising is a huge part of our work. You don’t want to charge families hundreds of dollars if you don’t have to. The big goal would be a kid wouldn’t have to pay to play hockey. I realize that’s quite ambitious, but that’s where we would like to be. Fundraising could knock down the cost, and that would make a huge difference to families.
Q: Other than the hockey association, do you volunteer with any other organizations?
A: Yes, I’m on the board of the Bridgewater Baseball Association. I took that position a couple of months ago. I am also the Umpire in Charge in the South Shore region for the Baseball Nova Scotia Umpires Division. I got involved in that about three years ago. It’s really enjoyable.
Q: Everyone has a greatest joy. What is yours?
A: My wife and children are my greatest joys. I am pretty lucky that my wife supports me getting involved with these organizations. Being president of the South Shore Minor Hockey Association is a huge undertaking and I can’t thank my wife enough for her support.
Q: Looking back, apart from family, is there anything that stands out as a proud moment?
A: I guess a proud moment occurred this year when I was voted the Nova Scotia Senior Umpire of the Year. I am proud of that because I spent a lot of time and money training to be an umpire.
Q: Is there anything about your life you would change if given the chance for a do-over?
A: Honestly, if I could do it all over again, I would go back and work hard on achieving a future as a hockey player. I had all the talent in the world, but I didn’t pay enough attention to all the other important elements that would have taken me to the next level in hockey.
Q: Do you have any personal goals?
A: Yes, our youngest son is on the autism spectrum, so one of my goals is to be more involved in that aspect, whether it is with Autism Nova Scotia or a group here on the South Shore. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for us getting him settled. When he starts school I would love to pursue courses that would give me more knowledge on autism, and how I can use that knowledge to help our son.
Q: Is there anything else you wish to add before we wrap this up?
A: I would like to thank everyone who had a role in getting me to run for president of the South Shore Minor Hockey Association. There are some excellent hockey people on our board, and we intend to make sound decisions to help young kids enjoy playing hockey and grow in the sport. I’m looking forward to getting down to business.
If you know an ordinary person doing extraordinary things, and might make a good candidate to profile in my What’s Your Story? column, let me know via email.
Peter Simpson is a veteran journalist and former CEO who lives in a rural South Shore community. E-mail: email@example.com