The 2020-21 youth hockey season looks a little different for Princeton Youth Hockey Association, not only because we’re entering it in the age of COVID-19 where social distancing and face coverings are the norm, but also because we’re entering it without Maureen Thompson-Siegel playing her many behind-the-scenes roles for the first time in 16 years.
After many years of leadership and support roles in PYHA, Thompson-Siegel has stepped down from her role as administrative director and master scheduler as she assumes her new responsibilities as the Administrative Vice President responsible for games/playoffs and scheduling with the New Jersey Youth Hockey League.
“As you can imagine, it is a wild time to take this over,” says Thompson-Siegel, a resident of Dayton. “I am hopeful we will be able to pull a season together in some fashion.”
Thompson-Siegel’s love of hockey pre-dates her tenure at PYHA and even her tenure as mother to PYHA Lifetime Achievement (Mite-to-Midget) award winner Ryan Siegel.
“Growing up, all of my male cousins on both sides of my family played ice hockey. We used to go and watch games at Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island. They played for the Brooklyn Stars and the Long Island Gulls,” Maureen says. “When my son was about three, ProSkate was getting ready to open its doors for the first time and they had a tent up in the parking lot. We pulled up to the tent, opened the car door and asked George Haviland of NJ Titans fame if Ryan was old enough to start to skate. The rest is history.”
The Siegels — Maureen, son Ryan, and husband Steven — made their way to PYHA when Ryan was turning seven. After Ryan making the Mites travel team at ProSkate, the rink changed ownership and the new owners didn’t believe that children as young as Ryan should be participating in travel hockey.
“I tried to convince them otherwise,” Thompson-Siegel says, “as there were about 10 kids that were told they made the team that were now being told there would not be a team.”
She did what any good hockey mom or dad would do and phoned a friend. She spoke with Coach Dan Fortunato, whose son played hockey with John Inman. The two dads also played men’s league together.
Fortunato let Inman that Ryan was looking for a team, and Inman added him onto his Tigers Mite C team. “We have been Tigers ever since,” Thompson-Siegel says.
Ever the volunteer and organizer, she served as manager for Ryan’s teams from his second year of Mites all the way through his last year of Midgets, making memories all along the way. Special moments included watching Ryan and his teammates receive gold medals in Lake Placid and cheering his team on during their playoff runs, of which there were several.
Not all special moments are tied to success on the ice, however. There was also the year Ryan’s Pee Wee B team collected items at the end-of-season banquet to send to troops serving in Kuwait where one of their teammate’s fathers was serving. Thompson-Siegel also recalls Coach Ian McNally’s team building exercise where he created a scavenger hunt on the Princeton campus, a special coach creating a special moment among friends in the magical Ivy League setting.
It was also special watching Ryan grow as a USA Hockey official. Today he works full time in the USAH officiating development program while pursuing his masters degree.
Tops on the list of the many memories for Thompson-Siegel? “Watching Ryan’s team of friends grow into fantastic young adults and making lifelong friends with the team families,” she says.
There isn’t a facet of PYHA that Thompson-Siegel hasn’t had a hand in shaping. If there was a role to be filled, she was always willing to fill it and then to train the person who was willing to step in and take over so Maureen could move onto the next hole that needed plugging.
In addition to being a 10-time team manager, Thompson-Siegel has served as uniform coordinator, Lake Placid tournament coordinator, Banquet Co-Chair, Alternate Registrar, Board Member, NJYHL Alternate Delegate, head manager, board president, and most recently, administrative director and master scheduler.
“Through her many years of hard work and volunteering, Maureen, as the ultimate ‘Tiger Mom,’ made my time at PYHA as parent, coach, board member and ultimately president from 2015 to 2019 a pleasure,” says past PYHA president Kevin Welsh. “Her loyalty to the organization is unsurpassed, and her willingness to do whatever was necessary to ensure that the philosophy of PYHA was always ultimately served is legendary. That our organization is so well respected within the NJYHL and the Atlantic District is testament to her guiding hand, and willingness on occasion to take a hard stand, and fight when she believed the best interests of the kids were not being served. The groundwork that she laid in her many roles at PYHA will ensure that our organization will continue to prosper through the coming years.”
It might be hard to believe that Thompson-Siegel would find the time to hold other support roles on top of her responsibilities to PYHA and her full-time job as senior grant and contract administrator at Princeton University, but she does, and in grand fashion. She also currently holds the following positions: secretary for the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association; administrative vice president for NJYHL, responsible for scheduling and playoffs; secretary for the NJYHL; USA Hockey ADM coordinator for the Atlantic Affiliate; USA Hockey Grow the Game coordinator for the Atlantic Affiliate; member of the Girls Hockey Growth committee; and member of the AAHA Diversity and Inclusion committee.
This larger-than-life hockey resume could only belong to a larger-than-life personality like Maureen Thompson-Siegel.
What will she miss most about PYHA? The answer comes quickly.
“PYHA is a special organization. It has always struck the best balance of competition with family values. The focus was always on making the best choices and providing the best experiences, not ever on winning — winning was a plus!” she says. “I think I will miss the little kids the most. I loved to hear them say that they were going to play for Princeton University when they went to college. I was always quick to remind them that they need to finish their homework and get 100% on their spelling tests. That was the best way to get to Princeton. I hope to see Princeton succeed for the next 60 years.”
The kids. It’s always about the kids.