Marquee players can define their team’s brand, and can serve as representatives for an entire organization. They are usually characterized by and idolized for their skill, off-ice presence, or some combination of the two.
Sometimes, however, this same impact can be felt when a figure not on the roster becomes a face of the organization and serves as the heart: pumping energy to all moving parts of the club. College basketball fans witnessed this phenomenon first-hand when Jean Dolores-Schmidt, Team Chaplain of the underdog Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, made international headlines following Loyola’s buzzer beating win against the Miami Hurricanes and ensuring run through the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Having a similar impact as Sister Jean, and changing the Peterborough Petes from simply a team to a family, is stick boy Iain Norrie.
Norrie is a critical component to the morale of the entire organization. The Petes stick boy is an OHL veteran, although he can’t recall his exact start date with the team. From a discussion with local alumni and Iain’s reflection on the rosters he previously worked with, it is estimated that Mr. Norrie’s time with the Petes will be approaching nearly forty years in 2018.
Frequently referred to simply as “E,” the Petes’ stick boy is described as, “a notable figure in the organization,” by coach Andrew Verner. Verns continued on, stating:
“I came in here in 1989. One of the first people I met was Iain, he was always helping out our training staff at the time, which was Jim Parcels. I recently ran into [1989 Petes alumnus] Chris Longo and he came to a Petes game and couldn’t believe it when he saw Iain. He was excited when he saw Iain and Iain remembered him.”
Outside the Memorial Centre, Iain does custodial work at Merrett Home Hardware twice a week, and spends the majority of his days embarking on extensive walks around Peterborough, touring downtown and the Lansdowne Place mall, with custom walking sticks composed of the materials from hockey sticks in each hand.
He is a Timbit connoisseur, who stands firm that birthday cake and chocolate glazed are the Canadian franchise’s best product, and adores Hawaiian pizza, although he’s willing to compromise with pepperoni.
E is passionate about rock and roll music and can often be found with a new CD from Sunrise Records or a shop downtown in hand when he circles back home from his adventures around the city.
In his spare time Iain commits himself to refining his NHL ’18 video game skills. A competitive edge of Norrie’s reveals itself when the Petes’ stick boy challenges players or assistant coach Mike Duco to an electronic scrimmage. Norrie is notorious for selecting the Pittsburgh Penguins as his team since he favours the presence of Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin on the black and yellow lineup.
Duco describes his times playing video games against Norrie has some of his favourite moments shared with the long time Pete, recapping their friendly rivalry, “the first time I beat him he was pretty upset about it but he shook my hand and told me he was going to go home and practice.” (At press time, both confirmed that the series stands at 2-1 for Duco, although Iain took the initial matchup in a shootout.)
On game days, Iain sticks to a strict routine. He starts the day with breakfast then calls Petes’ head trainer Brian “BMan” Miller to inquire about what colour jersey they will be wearing that night, so that he can match.
According to Miller, when he is unable to get to the phone in time to answer Iain, the same message is left every time that says, “Bman, Iain here, it’s urgent.” After calling BMan, Norrie will call his friend and Petes senior group ticket sales coordinator, Matt D’Agostini, to check in. He arrives at the rink at 4:00 pm sharp, first greeting the training staff then making his way to the office. From here he changes out of his outerwear and into his game night attire: Petes jersey, jacket adorned in pins and ball cap following the same aesthetic as his windbreaker decked out in enamel pins. The pins reflect all things hockey from the various governing bodies across the country including: Hockey BC and Hockey Nova Scotia, to minor hockey teams from the prairies. Iain’s advice to every stick boy is, “to get a good outfit.”
While at the rink Iain is part of the stick delivery operation taking the twigs on and off the bench. He also fills up the water bottles during and between periods and ensures that each player receives a fist bump before taking their first stride on the ice.
An accessory, but legendary, task in his role is the brief performance he puts on for the team in the dressing room after a win. It unfolds as so: he walks in after all the guys, makes sure everyone in the room is quiet and when the timing is perfect yells, “SHOWSTOPPER” as he swings his arm across his body and up. It is Iain’s signature after a long night’s work, and may just be the reason why Peterborough has held a stark home ice advantage in recent years.
Although he won’t explicitly claim favourites, Norrie does recount special bonds he has formed with alumni like Chris Pronger (’91-93) and Kyle Jenkins (’14-17). Although hundreds of players have rotated through the Petes, his attention to detail allows him to recall moments like Mike Martone’s (’94-98) shoulder injury in the nineties or former captain Eric Cornel’s (’12-15) stats off the top of his head.
In the off-season Iain’s workload lightens up and instead of meeting buddies like D’Agostini at the rink, they take trips to other local hotspots for treats and conversation.
D’Agostini reminisces that, “every Tuesday around noon he makes a point of coming to see me, I either take him to the mall’s Tim Horton’s or the Tim Horton’s up at George St., here. And its been that way every week in the summer for three or four years, from May to September and beyond. It allows us to connect.”
What Iain means to the Petes goes way beyond being the best stick boy in the league, and his popularity through the decades connects everyone in the Petes family. His positivity and ability to work a room serves catalyze relationships all through the organization, from coaching staff and players to game operations volunteers and business staff.