Celebrating women in the MJHL | Tori Nadeau

Tori Nadeau – Score Keeper, Portage Terriers

It’s been a special 20 year run for Tori as the scorekeeper for the Terriers and it all started pretty innocently. “I always had season tickets to the game, and I just loved hockey so much. I just thought it would be interesting to me. I knew the timekeeper and asked if I could sit with her and I just fell in love with it. I loved all the action back then, the fighting and even the bickering back and forth”

She may hold the record as the youngest scorekeeper in MJHL history. “When I was 11 years old, I started helping the previous timekeeper back in 1999” she recalls. “I became solo starting in the 2001 season when I was 13.”

Being the age she was, it took her mom a little time to get on board with the whole idea of Tori doing games. “I remember I’d tell her stories and she would ask ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ She knew I loved hockey so much. Eventually, she said okay, and I could see how it is. I just loved it and she must have seen it on my face. She was happy for me and when I took over at 13, she just said ‘okay. We knew I had the referees on my side and they were there for me if I needed help but there were only a couple situations over the past 20 years that I could see being a little scary, but it’s all good.”

Anyone who’s done timekeeping around the MJHL knows it’s not as easy as just pushing a button, there’s a lot you have to be aware of. “It took a little bit to get used to,” she explains. “The elapsed time takes a little to get used to. Now it’s all just second nature that 11:35 on the clock is 8:25 gone in a period. There was a pretty big hiccup in my first year or so, but I will never make that mistake again. It was a big one.”

That “big mistake” came at a pretty big event and at a critical time. “It was the Showcase Tournament, the first Showcase Tournament I was timekeeping,” she recalls. “I forgot about the 3-stick infraction rule. I realized after the guy came in for his fourth penalty that it was his fourth stick (penalty) and he was in on the winning goal. The goal ended up having to be taken away. It was a big mistake and I heard about it at that age and it kind of scarred me for life, so I’ll never make that mistake again.”

Despite making the mistake and feeling the wrath that came from it, the thought of not doing timekeeping simply never crossed her mind. “Not even a thought when it comes to leaving. It wasn’t to my home team, so I wasn’t too worried. I know they use it in timekeeper clinics. They don’t use my name, but they use that scenario in clinics to help teach. I just view it as ‘meh, little hiccup, not a big deal.”

Before the Terriers and Tori were moved into what’s now Stride Place, they all played in a smaller arena which for Tori, suited her better. “I was in the Centennial arena. The penalty box was… like the home, visitors, and where I sat was the size of now just the home penalty box. I’ve upgraded but I don’t like it as much. I like the smaller space. I like getting in there, listening to the action of them bickering back and forth. Now I have three doors I could close between me and the players, but I just like being around the action, I guess.”

It’s not just the chatter but it’s the sounds of the game, the skating, the puck movement, the hits along the boards that Tori has grown to appreciate. “I didn’t really look at that until I was older. It was just hockey to me. Now, it’s more physical along the boards so there’s more action in front of me. When I started, it was about who’s going to fight who but can’t really have that now because you’ll get tossed out. It’s more stick and body against the boards now and it’s a lot more physical in that way.”

Being around a team that’s won a lot over the past 20 years, she really has felt it when the team’s had success. “It’s been really amazing. I don’t know if they consider me part of the organization, but I say to be part of this organization is a huge pleasure. I consider myself part of the Portage Terrier organization. I’ve grown up with a lot of these guys. When I first started, they were my friends and now they’re like my little brothers. It’s odd to think, when I first started, I was about 10 years younger than the oldest player and now, a lot older than the oldest players (Tori starts laughing). They’re like my little brothers for sure.”

While not being born in Portage, she says it’s her hometown and to see the community support has meant so much over the last two decades. “Our community support in Portage is phenomenal. It was a little bit more in the old barn, just because it was maybe less expensive then, but our support is amazing. There are so many people who have been here as long as I have or even longer and they keep coming to support, it’s special.”

Anyone around Portage and the MJHL would know long-time trainer and equipment manager Geno Romanow and like so many, Tori was deeply saddened when Geno passed away. “I grew up for the last 20 years around the team and he was my rink, Grandpa. The loss of him was huge for me. I was dreading coming back this season, just those first few games of getting used to not seeing him.”

Because of COVID-19, the Terriers and the league didn’t get to celebrate Geno the way many hoped but Tori isn’t worried about that “Oh, we will. We will,” she chuckles. “He would never think anyone would want to celebrate him, but he was a huge part of the organization and a huge part of my life growing up and he’s extremely missed at the rink. Hopefully, someday we can honor him and his family.”

Another memorable moment for Tori was the night Braden Pettinger returned to drop the ceremonial faceoff before a Terrier’s playoff game after an on-ice injury left him paralyzed. “He only got to play one home game with us before the incident happened” she remembers. “Just getting to see him… I know his family from Portage, just seeing them and then when he came out onto the ice was just so…” Tori takes a moment before continuing “It was just so amazing for our organization to do something like that for a player that wasn’t here long. Once a Terrier, always a Terrier.”

If she had to pick one moment though above all others, it was when Portage won the big one. “Winning the RBC Cup. I waited so long for that day” she says, her voice clearly excited at recalling that event. “I was extremely pregnant at the time, but I still showed up.”

She only missed two games during the RBC Cup Tournament, but she made sure she was there for that final game. “It was hard to breathe and not just because I was super pregnant,” she says jokingly. “It was also extremely special because my cousin Zack Waldvogel was on that team. My daughter was just his biggest fan, and she was at the game watching him. It was just amazing.”

You would think her team winning the RBC Cup at home while pregnant would be the wildest story, but Tori has a topper. “I was at the home opener in 2014 and it was the day after my wedding. I had to be there. I couldn’t miss it.” When asked how her brand-new husband felt, Tori just laughed and said, “he was right there beside me. We met in the penalty box. It was the World U17 Tournament. He’s from Quebec and he was an official there. I always thought I might marry a hockey player, but I never thought I’d marry a ref. We have two young children, and they like to time keep with me now.”

While the kids haven’t done Portage Terrier games just yet, Tori is hopeful that maybe one day they can carry on the legacy. “I do hope so. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick around that long to do games with them. My daughter is 7 years old, so if she wants to follow my steps, it’s only five more years.”

“It sure was a hard pill to swallow,” Tori says when asked about her feelings on the season being canceled. “Hockey is my winter life. My kids play hockey and seeing the impact of them not playing, let alone not getting to go watch hockey, was really hard on them. I did get more family time and that’s a real positive. Not having hockey though was really hard and last year when it got canceled when we were supposed to be hosting again was really hard. I’m hoping we can get it back while I’m still here.”

Although she mentioned a possible end down the road, don’t expect Tori to give up her space in the timekeeper’s box just yet. “I hope to go as long as I can. It of course depends on my children, but I do hope to stick around. I’d like to pass it on to one of my girls, even if it means me going with them for a little bit. I’m here for the long run, I don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon. Portage will be my home for the next twenty or thirty years. I’ll be a grandma by then. Whatever, I’m here and I will make it work.”

She figures over the years, she’s missed less than 10 Portage Terrier games, and she credits her partner in the box with making it such an enjoyable time. “I have to give kudos to Al Wall, he’s so amazing. He’s been with me since we came to Stride Place. He sure hasn’t missed many games either. He’s the best.”

Like all of us, Tori is hoping we can get back to rinks across the province come fall. “When it gets to that time, there’s nothing I want more than putting on my Terrier jacket, walking into that rink and having Portage Terrier hockey being played again.”