The longest serving of Winnipeg’s curling club managers, Jeff Hodge, has announced his retirement as Manager of the Fort Rouge Curling Club.
Hodge has advised the Board of Directors and club members that he will be ‘stepping back” at the end of April. He admits that ‘covid’ did have a small role to play in his decision but not what you might expect.
“I didn’t know how much I would enjoy not having the day-to-day stress and worries of managing the club until I was off work during the pandemic,” he says.
He has been FRCC’s Manager for 19 years and remembers well the day he learned he had been hired for the position. He had served as the club’s Junior President (1983-84), as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Board’s President (2000-01). He was just two years off the Board with a lot of pride in the club. “I wanted the job because I felt there was so much more we could do and I wanted to be part of moving the club forward to reach its potential,” he says.
Asked to recall special memories of his time as Manager, Hodge struggles – he says there are so many.
“One very special memory is the way we successfully hosted the Canadian Mixed Championship in 2019,” he recalls. The Rouge has hosted provincial championships and even some national firefighters events but the opportunity to showcase his club in a national championship was special to Hodge. “Chair Brad McLean, a great committee and hard-working volunteers did a great job and I remember how much fun it was doing that event,” he says.
Hodge acknowledges the real special memories are probably things only a club manager would think of as special.
In the 2006-07 season, Fort Rouge spent almost the whole year figuring out the water issue that plagued Fort Rouge ice for years.
“I spent the whole year ‘sleuthing’, working with Greg Ewasko, who was handling our ice and Heather’s. We tried UV lights and carbon filters and water softeners before we found the right combination of carbon filters, water softener and RO (reverse osmosis) system. We were the first clubs to implement that system in Manitoba – now almost everyone has it,” he says with obvious pride.
Hodge also points at the Fort Rouge club’s business plan and finances. Admittedly, like other clubs, they took a hit during the covid shutdown but overall, the planned funding of infrastructure improvements, implementation of a capital fund, development of a ten-year planning process, and a more business-like approach to increasing membership fee levels are all in place at Fort Rouge. While he took a leadership role in these areas, he is thankful to the Board volunteers who have played a key role in these developments. The fact they have happened during his time as Club Manager is a source of satisfaction.
By sharing Rouge’s ideas with other clubs, and borrowing ideas from other clubs to bring back to Fort Rouge, through the Winnipeg Club Association meetings, the retiring Manager also feels he has made a contribution to curling in Winnipeg, not just at his own club.
As noted above, he acknowledges the role and contribution of the Board volunteers and especially Past-Presidents. As a Past-President himself, he knows the Manager works both with and for the Board and President.
Dangerous as it might be to single out individuals, Hodge offers a few
as examples of the leadership provided to his club by the volunteers. “Treasurer D’Arcy Clendenan played a pivotal role in turning around our finances upon becoming Treasurer in 2003. Past President Ernie Wilson could not have been more supportive of the work we were doing to solve the water issues in 2006-07, Past President Craig Jones, more when he was a Director, was very involved in the move to develop a ten-year planning process at Fort Rouge and Past President Keith Johnston provided his IT expertise to modernize our processes, such as online registration and payment,” he says. “Those are just some of the examples of the kind of volunteer leadership Fort Rouge has always been lucky to have.”
Once a pretty competitive player (winner of three MCA bonspiel trophies and provincial championship berths), Jeff Hodge hasn’t played for a few years and admits he misses it. He says he might take a break from the club next year but Fort Rouge members can expect to see him back on the ice “probably the year after next.”
When he does return to the ice, it can only be at Fort Rouge for a guy who has bled Fort Rouge Green & Gold since that year as Junior President in 1983 – 40 years ago!
(Editor’s Note: As a Fort Rouge club member and league organizer, it has always been a pleasure to work with Jeff on projects big and small. On behalf of all Fort Rouge members, I’ll presume to say THANK YOU!! and GOOD LUCK IN THE FUTURE!!)