Mary Anne Veroba is a lifelong hockey fan.
She recalls that when she was a child, she would watch the Montreal Canadiens play the Boston Bruins on Hockey Night in Canada while in the basement of her parents’ home in Windsor, Ont.
The Lampman resident’s love of the game has resulted in her being elected to Hockey Canada’s board of directors, putting her on one of the most influential boards in the sport.
“I love watching young kids play, and just learning how to skate. I love the joy it brings. You see kids and their rosy cheeks, and then you see teenagers learning, and I saw it in my kids,” Veroba told the Mercury.
She was elected to the board on Nov. 14, and Hockey Canada made the announcement two days later.
Veroba said she took some time before making her decision, because she wanted to make sure she had the qualifications to serve the members. She did not want to be, as she put it, a “token female.” Hockey Canada now wants to have at least two women on its board each year.
“They did want to create diversity on the board, but I wanted to know that I would earn my spot,” said Veroba. “I think my desire to throw my name in comes from a desire to continue to want to serve the game of hockey.”
Veroba recently wrapped up a seven-year run as the chairperson of the Saskatchewan Hockey Association board of directors. She was the first female chairperson of the board in its history.
The experience with Sask. Hockey should help her with the new role on Hockey Canada.
A nominating committee sought out potential candidates for board members. More than 20 people were running for five board spots.
“We put together a video for the members to look at,” said Veroba. “It was a two-minute video in which each person running for a board position talked about the things they thought for the role of the board.”
She believes Hockey Canada should serve the 13 different branches who are part of the membership, and then the branches should serve the members, which are the community hockey associations, who in turn serve the players.
“I think everyone focuses on providing a great experience for the player, so we all should be on the same page,” she said.
A virtual orientation session was held Saturday, when board chair Michael Brind’Amour assigned different committees and responsibilities.
When she was the chairperson of Sask. Hockey, she was at the same table as Hockey Canada representatives. Last year, as part of her Saskatchewan work, Veroba was tasked with facilitating a task team on rule changes.
“It depends on what the needs are at the time, but I’m assuming that they’ll place me (where they need me) – and I actually told Michael wherever he wants to, wherever he thinks I’m the best fit, to go ahead and put me wherever he chooses,” said Veroba.
Some of the new board members haven’t had the same experience with Hockey Canada as Veroba.
She expressed support for the direction that Hockey Canada has taken, with a theme of making hockey more accessible and celebrating those involved with the game. On Father’s Day, there was a message with a thank you to the dads for the roles they play.
“I think it’s important to recognize that hockey is made up of so many different people and so many different roles, and hockey can happen in all kinds of different situations.”
With her background in grassroots hockey, she expects that will be her emphasis. There might be members with more experience at upper echelons but her interest is in youth hockey and other parts of the game at the community level.
“I’m very proud to be from Saskatchewan. I think Saskatchewan gives people good roots in recognizing all kinds of different places where people come from,” said Veroba.
Hockey gets a bad rap for some things, but there are many more good things, and she loves seeing how the sport brings people together to cheer for Team Canada – something she has seen while working at St. Joseph’s Hospital, when people would gather around the TV to watch the World Junior Hockey championships or the Olympics.
“It’s good for the Canadian soul, and I think I can provide a service,” said Veroba.