One particular Generals game last season, I was struck by a pitch-perfect male voice singing O Canada before the puck drop.
That voice encapsulated the pride of being Canadian, and I had to know who sang the anthem. After the game, I found out it was none other than the club's general manager Rick Richards.
To me, that moment captured the essence of Rick's commitment to the team, and the pride he carries with him where ever he goes. He was there to do anything necessary to help the club, and do it well.
Richards may have stepped back from his role as general manager of the Cochrane Generals, but it wasn't because of a lack of passion for the junior hockey team.
He enjoyed his role with Gens and will continue to help where possible in the coming season.
"I didn't want to leave them high and dry. Even when I was leaving as GM, I wasn't walking away from the team. Unfortunately, there was just too much of everything else going on."
"I absolutely love the players, love the coaches, love being at the rink, love seeing the progression of the team, love being able to speak into some these young men's lives, and watching them make some big decisions on what they're going to grow up to be. I love being a part of that."
There have been other highlights.
"Being part of the community of Cochrane was a big highlight for me. Being able to spend time with fans in the stands, and watching some of the players do some dynamite things."
That includes watching Dean Olenyk and Patrick Forde in their rookie season.
"When those two caught fire, nobody could stop them. It was just fun to watch."
Exactly how far the Gens would have gone will never be known with the cancellation of the season due to COVID-19. Richards is among those left wondering how the Generals-Okotoks Bisons south final series would have ended. It was tied 2-2 when the HJHL shut down for the season.
"We had them by the throat," he says.
"I think, and I've heard this from several people, after the fourth game if we kept going, we were going to win that series. We had the momentum, we had the belief, and we had Okotoks running scared because they had never lost two games in a short span of time. We had them looking behind their backs, seeing who was coming after them."
"It would have been absolutely awesome to beat them and play for the provincial championship. That would have been something else. But it is what it is."
He's anxious to see what will happen when the team takes to the ice again.
"We know what team we were and we know what team we have going forward. I can't wait until these guys hit the ice again. I think they'll be like locked up stallions; let them loose out there and it's going to be something to watch."
Richards has been involved with managing hockey teams since his son was in peewees.
"I coached a bit, but managing was the thing I took to and enjoyed the most. I spent most of my time talking to parents, and liaisoning with them, and working with the whole family, not just the player on the ice."
"I love the game. It has given us lots in our household and I don't see myself running away from it anytime soon."
Gens head coach and now general manager Kurtis Jones says few knew of the work Rick did behind the scenes in the voluntary position.
"It's a loss to our organization because he's very organized, very professional, and he gets things done. It's not going to be easy to live up to his standards."
Richards has gone on to work for HART--Humanitarian Aid Response Team--that is dedicated to alleviating poverty and injustice in Eastern Europe, particularly the Ukraine and Moldova, but also partners with churches, pastors, and humanitarian organizations in surrounding Eastern European countries.
He says they have been devastated by COVID-19 and struggling to keep their people safe.
"We're doing a lot of fundraising over there because the death toll is enormous."
"If you don't have the test kits, it's hard to do. Their hospitals are full, and people are dying People in rural areas can't even get to a hospital, so they really haven't started counting how many people are dying."