Roy Sakaki had travel on his mind when he learned he’d been nominated as a Hockey Canada Ambassador.
“I didn’t know what the heck that meant,” laughed Sakaki, the Salmon Arm Minor Hockey Association (SAMHA) administrator. “I thought, ‘hey, maybe I’ll get a free trip to Japan or something!’”
A Google search later and Sakaki, who prefers to be working behind the scenes celebrating the accomplishments of others, realized his time in the spotlight was coming.
They call him Mr. Hockey.
The son of immigrant parents, Roy Sakaki started playing hockey to keep busy. Today, after decades involved in the game, there is no one more loved in Salmon Arm, B.C. #HCCommunity
FEATURE STORY ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/c6jmztZV1M
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) September 30, 2019
Sakaki received a call from a Hockey Canada representative who was coming to Salmon Arm to put him on camera.
“So she flew into Kamloops and she stopped by the old rink (Memorial Arena) where I played and took a picture of that, and then she made her way here and timed it when I was playing some Oldtimers Hockey, so she made that part of her deal…,” said Sakaki, who is featured in a Hockey Canada Ambassador video.
Soon after, the lens turned to friends of Sakaki’s – Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison, SAMHA president Tim Giandomenico and business partner Gord Mackintosh, each sharing praise for Salmon Arm’s Mr. Hockey.
“You go around the province and you mention Roy Sakaki – everyone knows Roy Sakaki… he’s Mr. Hockey is what he is,” said Mackintosh.
Asked about the Mr. Hockey title, Sakaki chuckles and is quick to redirect attention to fellow SAMHA staff, as well as volunteers and parents, who step up for the organization.
“We’ve got outstanding people helping… We are just so fortunate that we have really great parents who step up and do all those things we need to do to make the organization run, including the board,” said Sakaki.
The video was clearly an emotional experience for Sakaki, who was asked to share a bit about his family history, how his parents immigrated to Canada, how he was the youngest in a family of nine, and how they wound up moving to Kamloops where his career in hockey began.
“When I started playing, I went up the ranks and, about Peewee, my mom and dad… They started coming to the rink and you know, her English wasn’t that good, so when she came to the rink it was really great because she mingled with the other parents and she really felt at ease. And from Peewees on, she never missed a game,” Sakaki explains in the video.
Despite his modest nature, Sakaki said he likes the video. He also appreciates the many kind words he’s received since being named a Hockey Canada Ambassador. Some have come from people he hasn’t seen in years, people he met through coaching or playing hockey, through baseball or during his years as an educator (having retired in 2007 after serving as principal at Parkview Elementary in Sicamous), on whom he left a positive, lasting impression.
“My first school was a two-room school on Mara Lake which is not there now. I had a great group of kids there and there was a couple of kids who responded,” said Sakaki, whose daughters have been sharing all the kind words about him on social media. “They remembered us rebuilding that outdoor rink and playing hockey. We played hockey all afternoon there.”
While he may be somewhat uncomfortable with the title “Mr. Hockey,” Sakaki continues to wear his love for the game on his jersey sleeve.
“I’m still playing hockey, can you believe it? I don’t think I’ve missed a year of hockey for 60-plus years.”