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Like most good organizational presidents, Samantha Barrowcliff gives acknowledgment to the people she works with.

The president of the Alberni Valley Minor Hockey Association gives credit where credit is due, but the association knows well of her accomplishments and, for that, she is being awarded as one of five Fred Heslop Minor Hockey Award winners. The award recognizes volunteers who have made significant contributions to BC Hockey, their association and community – people who have enhanced programs, gone beyond expectations and made remarkable achievements.

The Heslop Award is named after past BC Hockey President and long-time volunteer, Fred Heslop, whose involvement with BC Hockey spanned more than two decades. The Trail, B.C. native served in many capacities on the board and in s 2007, BC Hockey, awarded him the highest honour when he was presented with the Diamond Stick Award. Heslop passed away in late 2013, leaving a legacy behind him.

“Our board is an amazing team to be a part of. I probably would have run screaming a long time ago if I didn’t have the support of the board to be able to continue what we’re doing,” said Barrowcliff, who started 13 years ago as manager of safety. She then became the registrar and has held the positions of vice-president and currently president, through the difficult Covid-19 seasons.

“I know it sounds like a canned response, but it’s been a crazy couple of years and the only reason I can do it is because I have a great board behind me, which is awesome.”

Barrowcliff first began volunteering in the association when she went back to school, earning her degree, and wanted to make sure she was intentional and present with the kids. She’s always been involved in hockey, not as a competitor, but as a volunteer.

“I’ve always thought you give back. The kids are doing it and there’s always room for volunteers and that’s how I started.”

It began when her son Justin started playing. He has since graduated out of hockey and she’s remained steadfast with her involvement.

“I’ll always be involved in some way, whether through our first-year program here. It’s a long way from having a 17-year-old graduating player to go back to tying skates, but it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I love the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Board, too. It’s a highlight to work with those presidents around the table. It’s been so much fun for me.”

She admits it hasn’t always been easy.

“Coming into it without really knowing what to expect is hard. Consistency is a key; making sure people know what they’re getting from you, when you say what you’re going to do and do what you say,” she explained.

“Getting people to know you and getting the confidence in you takes time. Hockey is a passionate game for passionate people. People advocate from the deepest part of their hearts for what they feel is best without necessarily having all the knowledge of the rules and regulations and we respect where they’re coming from with education and support.”

Mario Annicchiarico is a freelance writer based in Victoria who has previously covered the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, as well as the Western Hockey League.