by Charlie Larson || AHL On The Beat Archive
Things were going pretty well for Ryan Maki last spring.
He was about to graduate from the most-esteemed Harvard University after finishing a stellar four-year career with the Crimson. He tasted the flavor of the professional hockey life, playing in a pair of games for the Milwaukee Admirals, and in the fall would begin his hockey career with the Ads full time.
But before embarking on that career, Maki decided to give back to the Boston hockey community during his final summer in Beantown by serving as president for the Crimson City Hockey Clinic.
However, the CCHC isn’t your typical hockey clinic that only the affluent can afford or where the collegiate-playing instructors have a tough time making it to the rink in the morning because they have been out partying the night before.
Founded by former Harvard player Rob Fried in 2003, the CCHC is a clinic which runs during the summer and provides equipment, instruction and ice time to local underprivileged youth at no charge. The one-hour clinics meet once a week for nine weeks, usually in the evenings, at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena.
“When Rob started this he wanted to gear it to kids who couldn’t find ice in the summer and who didn’t have the means to get into hockey,” said Maki.
“He wanted give back to the community and this was a way to do that and also to do something that he loved and was passionate about at the same time. It’s really just an incredible program.”
The nine weeks are divided into three separate three-week camps that have about 30 kids in each group. Since most of the participants have not played organized hockey before, the ice time is heavy on fundamentals like skating and puck handling, but each week the final 15 minutes are reserved for games and contests to make sure everyone is enjoying their first taste of the sport.
And it is clear to Maki that they are.
“We get a lot parents come up to us and tell us how much their kid enjoys coming here and how they can’t wait to come again each week.
In addition to building an enthusiasm for hockey in general, the camps also have the unintended effect of creating new Harvard hockey fans, which is an important aspect in a city with three other Division I hockey programs.
“It is pretty cool when we are done with the camps and the kids tell us they are going to come to one of our games to see us play. Harvard hockey isn’t always the biggest ticket in town so great to maybe generate a few additional fans.”
Every aspect of CCHC is done through volunteer work and donations, from the ice time to the equipment to the administration and instruction. But since the camps are not officially sanctioned by Harvard or any other organization there is not any full time administrative staff devoting much time to it. Rather CCHC is run by an executive committee of Crimson hockey players.
That committee is comprised of a president, a vice president, a treasurer, and an assistant vice president who together must do the vast majority of the work both on and off the ice.
Maki first got involved in the CCHC after his junior season when he decided to stay in Boston to work out and prepare for his senior year. He was approached by then-president Rob Flynn about serving as the organization’s vice-president which would put him in charge of all the on-ice aspects of the camp.
“I talked Rob about it and it sounded like something that I would be really interested in so I decided to give it a shot. I did it and ended up loving it and then I was selected as the president for this past summer.”
Serving as the VP and then moving into the top spot as president were two totally different animals. As the vice president duties were familiar since they were hockey related jobs, but as the prez Maki had to take on all of the administrative roles like filing for insurance, distributing flyers and enrolling kids.
However, because the camps are free of charge for all the participants and with about $7,000 in expenses, the most important hat Maki had to wear as president was that of chief fundraiser. To do this he was able to solicit donations from a list of “Friends of Harvard Hockey,” which includes all of team’s alumni and also some big-time boosters.
Plus all of this has to be done in a timely manner and it had to happen while balancing the demands of his senior season and the beginning of his pro career, not to mention the rigors of a second-semester senior needing to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s in order to graduate in the spring.
“You realize how much work is involved and how it is a lot like running your own business. We have to be sure that everything is organized because we can’t just open up the ice and let anyone come on.
“I would not have guessed it before, but there are a lot of similarities between running the camp and playing hockey. You have to be disciplined, you have to know how to manage your time, and you have to be on top of everything or else you can fall behind very quickly.”
For Maki, all of the hard work is worth it when you realize that he may have helped, in even the smallest way, to change a kid’s life for the better.
“The whole thing was just a tremendously rewarding experience and to hear from the kids and the parents how much they enjoyed it was phenomenal. The kids are from some tough areas so for us to be able to help them out a little is fantastic.”