I started my hockey career 62 years ago in the far east coast of my native Canada, playing in many parts of the world and like so many other players, through some very lean years. Hockey, the players, and the team, always came first and yes, often times before my family.
After coming to Australia and given the chance to coach and help build the Sydney Ice Dogs, with the Fine Wilson Family, my wife and I decided to move to Blue Haven on the Central Coast of New South Wales. In a very short time I was asked once again to help form the Central Coast Rhinos and bring in players from all over the world as well as very good Australian players. In 2005 the Central Coast Rhinos were formed and my job now was Director of Coaching and Player Personnel.
It was a very rocky road to say the least but we managed and got through the year and all the players were looking forward to a great year in 2006, having had that great experience in the first year of their A.I.H.L. careers. We brought in players from far and wide and Imports from all over the world and our local players were set to have a banner 2006 year. I had given many hours of my time, picking players up at the airport, hours on the computer to get them here, bring them to our house for short stays and good food, always with them, directing them, helping with their visa's and passports, forming a family bond, and loving every minute of it.
Then the one thing that you never want to hear ….. the team had management and internal problems and it was a possibility there would not be a team for 2006. The next day my phone rang and the words were, "The locks are on the arena doors and the liquidators are inside". My heart was in pieces. Now I would have to inform as many players as possible of the terrible news …...people who were like family, people who loved this way of life, the fans who loved their Rhinos. Disaster had struck the Rhinos. A devastating loss this time! Without any doubt this would be my biggest disappointment in hockey. The people that are responsible for this terrible thing do not really care if the kids are off the streets or not and under the supervision of responsible people. They do not care how many people they hurt, or how far the players had to travel to play hockey in this fine country, or the great entertainment The Rhinos provided for so many hockey fans at Erina Ice World. it is all about the almighty dollar, not the happiness of people.
After the initial shock, I asked my wife the next evening if she would come with me to Erina Ice World on March 9th. I had to see with my own eyes something I did not want to believe. My wife of 42 years, who has always stood beside me, knew and understood the hurt I was dealing with. I can still see her waiting with the trolley of groceries while I made my way to the arena. On approaching the arena I tried the doors but they were firmly locked, the arena was in darkness except for lighting in the office and the big jumbo screen, and a terrible feeling of sadness came over me. I still did not want to believe it. It was so quiet, with a couple of pin-ball machine lights flashing off and on, something you could only imagine after a terrible storm.
I wanted to get as close as possible to being inside, putting my face against the window and it was then that I could see a figure of a face and a very lonely man inside. I could see that he was quite sad and broken hearted with tears running down his face. Looking closer through the window, he removed his specks and wiped some more tears from his eyes with shaking hands. Putting his glasses back in place and swallowing the lump in his throat I could then see from the expression on the old fellow's face that he must have had many years of hockey behind him. He was so sad, standing there looking down at the ice that should have had hockey players or young people with mom and dads to enjoy the short lives that we have.
Just then I heard a woman's voice saying, "Let's go home, my dear". As I wiped my eyes once more and walked away, so did "The Man In The Window". It was then I knew that the end of a long and wonderful hockey career had come to an end. Goodbye my dearest players and thank you, May God Bless.
R.V. "Mitch" Mitchell
"The Man In the Window."