Roy Sakaki, Salmon Arm’s answer to Mr. Hockey, was honoured by Hockey Canada with its 2020 Order of Merit West Award.
“It’s quite an honour but really, there are thousands of people deserving of the award. I should be thankful, and I am,” said Sakaki, a retired school principal who has done just about every job and position within minor hockey. “It’s really an honour.”
“If you have been involved in hockey in Salmon Arm, B.C., as player, coach, official or fan,” wrote Hockey Canada on its Facebook page announcing the award, “then the name Roy Sakaki holds plenty of meaning. Over the last 50 years, Roy has become the heart of the game in the city, earning the moniker Mr. Hockey among locals.”
A graduate of the University of B.C., and a member of the school’s Thunderbirds hockey team, Sakaki, a Kamloops native, arrived in the Shuswap in the early 1970s and got involved right away behind the bench with the Salmon Arm Minor Hockey Association.
Over the next two decades he coached up and down the association, guiding his own kids and thousands of others through the game. He traded his clipboard for a whistle in the early 1990s and started officiating. Thirty years later he continues to mentor young officials to strive for excellence and not just collect a paycheque.
The community was thrilled to learn of Sakaki’s award, leaving many words of congratulation on the Facebook post. One came from Sakaki’s former UBC teammate Tom Williamson, who lives in Vernon.
“Roy is the greatest hockey player ever from the Kamloops Elks,” deadpanned Williamson. “I had the good fortune to be a teammate of his. Roy is a wonderful example of giving back to hockey.”