Ramblers volunteers labour of love spans 26 seasons
AMHERST?- "Willie is the spoke that makes this wheel go around," Amherst Ramblers head coach Corey Crocker said about trainer Willie Boyle.
Boyle has been a volunteer with the Ramblers organization since 1982 and has been an indispensable part of the team the last 26 years.
"The Ramblers have lucked out in a big way by having Willie on the team," Crocker added. "His organizational skills are the reason this team has been so successful."
Boyle estimates he puts in 20 to 30 hours a week with the Ramblers and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I sharpen the skates, do the laundry, fix equipment, lay out the sweaters and socks, and pack for away games," Boyle said. "It gives me something to do.
"This is the job I enjoy. The other one is the one I get paid for," Boyle, who works for Canada Post, added.
What brings him back year after year are the players.
"The team keeps me coming back. You get to know the kids and you get to know the parents," the 54-year-old said.
"Especially the kids who have been here for three or four years. You get really close to them."
Ramblers players agree.
Fourth-year player Matthew Squires has become close to Boyle.
"He's one of the most dedicated people I've ever met," Squires said. "And he has a great hockey sense. He really knows what we need to do to improve as a team. Also, no matter what is happening, he has a smile on his face. He's an upbeat guy."
Veteran Rambler Adam Chipman said people see him as one of the assistant coaches.
"People look up to him. He's a definite leader on this team."
Andrew Shears said he's very approachable and "an all-around great guy."
Goaltender Andrew Flemming said Boyle "will do anything for you."
"He'll talk to you and talk to your parents and he keeps us going behind the scenes," Chipman said. "There's nothing he doesn't do for the team."
Crocker describes Boyle as "dedicated, unselfish, sincere, loyal and has a work ethic like no other."
His loyalty has made him invaluable in several ways.
"Me and Willie interact every day and he's the type of guy I always bounce ideas off of to get feedback from," Crocker said.
"He's been around a long time and has seen a lot of players and teams come through this organization. He's a great judge of character.
"He's part of the process when we are cutting players or making trades because he knows the chemistry of the players and the chemistry of a team. His knowledge about that part of the game is exceptional."
Boyle said Crocker has made the Ramblers a well-organized team.
"It's much different than it used to be. There's a schedule for every day."
He also said the players are different than they used to be when he first started with the team.
"The kids playing with the Ramblers now tend to be better educated, both in their education and in their knowledge of the game," Boyle said.
"They also have more life goals now. The kids nowadays see the Ramblers as a stepping stone to something better as opposed to 20 years ago when they played with the Ramblers because they knew they could."
How long does Boyle plan to remain as the team's trainer?
"Until I'm not able to," Boyle said.
That's good news for the Ramblers.
"The boys, the coaching staff and the executive appreciates what he does for this hockey club and it doesn't go unnoticed," Crocker said.