Carrie Collodel’s philosophy on youth hockey meshed well with Art Trottier’s from the beginning, and their vision and that of their fellow board members continues to play out dynamically through the Anaheim Amateur Hockey Association.
“We try to create a club that’s got something for everyone,” she said. “We try very hard as a board to treat people as fairly as we can in terms of what we give them for their money, how we treat them and how we treat their kids. Ice hockey is a sport where you learn discipline and life skills, things you will never forget.”
Collodel recently retired after 18 years with AAHA, most of them spent as its chief financial officer, a title that only hints at all of the roles she filled.
“She will be missed,” said Trottier, AAHA’s president. “Those years flew by. She did an outstanding job when we took over. She got the club’s finances going in the right direction, and now financially the Jr. Ducks are in great shape.”
Year after year Collodel worked like it was 1999, which it was when Trottier took over as president of the board and asked her to help with the books, a role she started as a volunteer, just as she had when she’d managed teams for the Jr. Ducks.
“I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do this,’” she recalled. “We had maybe nine teams at the time, no high school league, no AAA teams and just a couple AA teams. I knew all the names at that time.
“It’s been great, but it’s been a lot of work. We have 74 teams now between the Jr. Ducks, Lady Ducks and the high schools. Knowing all the kids I’ve known and seeing them grow up and go to college and do all the things they’ve done, it’s such a blessing.
“I love those little Mites. I’ll stop and watch them every time I can.”
Her heart for the young players in the program no doubt sustained her through the avalanche of numbers she dealt with on a monthly basis.
“No. 1, Carrie is an incredible person,” said Jr. Ducks Director of Coaches Craig Johnson. “She always had great suggestions. And she did a lot of things behind the scenes no one knows about. She cares about the program, and she dealt with people very well.”
That was evident both externally and internally.
“(On the board) she did a great job sifting through information. She was very well prepared,” Trottier said. “She also was on our financial assistance committee.
“She really cared about the boys and girls in the club.”
Numbers were just a fraction of her job it seems.
“I’ve met so many interesting people,” Collodel said. “You never know who you’re going to talk to, where they’re coming from, what’s going on in their lives. We always helped where we could.
As the Jr. Ducks and Lady Ducks grew and added highly competitive AAA teams, the vision of AAHA to have hockey for everyone never changed, and Trottier and Collodel were drivers of that.
“She was very supportive of me and helped me when we started our AAA program,” Johnson said. “She helped grow the program and hockey in California, and AAA hockey was a whole different game for her. She made sure we kept our grass-roots efforts strong.
“She helped the Ducks grow the game at that level. It’s easy to get caught up in AAA hockey, but the goal is to bring people into the game, and she never lost sight of that.”
The atmosphere of teamwork among the board members, the coaches and the support staff was one of the program’s biggest strengths, Collodel said. She cited Johnson and Scott Niedermayer as examples of former NHL players who have lent their time and talents to helping as many young players as possible, not just their own children.
“They’re great, quiet guys who want the best for the kids,” she said. “They are the real deal and great family men.
“Craig has brought a lot to our club. Yes, he grew our tier program but he cares about our A and B teams. That’s what Art and I have tried to keep going strong through the years. A child may one day turn into a AAA player or they may not but they’ll still have the time of their life playing the game.”
In a way, Collodel’s generation with AAHA came full circle when a former player she remembered from her days as a Jr. Ducks manager in the 1990s was hired as the club’s director of player personnel – Alex Kim.
“It’s going to be very hard to leave, but there’s always a time and a place,” she said. “I’m going to miss Art, going to miss Craig, going to miss Kathy (McGarrigle) and going to miss Alex – our little Jr. Duck who’s now a big coach helping others.
“I've truly enjoyed the people I've worked with, especially Art. There is a lot of encouragement between us and these girls (on the board) I’m leaving are like my sisters.”