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Guelph man's Hall of Fame ringette career an ode to family

John Mezenberg was named a Ringette Ontario 2024-24 Hall of Fame Provincial Builder
John Mezenberg has been named a Ringette Ontario 2023-24 Hall of Fame Provincial Builder.

It began as a way to do something together as a family.

John Mezenberg’s wife Jennifer was getting back on the ice to play ringette. Their two daughters were also playing the sport in Guelph. So John stepped on the bench as a coach.

But little did he know that this move over 20 years ago would turn into a Hall of Fame level career.

John was recently named a Ringette Ontario 2023-24 Hall of Fame.

“I think the first thing that came to mind was what an honour it was to be compared to the people who came before me,” he said Friday from the West End Community Centre, which became the family’s second home over the years.

“When I look at the list on the Ringette Ontario website, and you look at all the previous hall of fame nominees, you kind of look at it and go ‘wow, to be compared with them, it’s something I never would have imagined when I started out in the sport.”

John’s accomplishments as a coach can be found on banners around the Rec Centre rink, notably a gold medal at the U19 AA Canadian Ringette Championships in 2019.

He has coached at three Ontario Winter Games, and was an assistant coach with Team Ontario at the 2023 Canada Winter Games in PEI.

He has spent plenty of time behind the bench in Guelph.

But in the midst of his coaching career, he decided to do even more.

“I’m at the rink, I can make some money while I’m here, help pay for stuff so I’ll start reffing,” John recalled.

That turned into a 16-year refereeing career, one that saw him referee at provincial championships. He even had the chance to officiate with his daughters at the provincial level at the tail end of his career.

John has also worked as the referee supervisor at the last two double-A provincial championships, which he said allowed him to tie into his coaching background, and coach younger ringette officials.

The list goes on, and even while daughters Jessica and Julia have grown up and are involved in the game in their own way, John has stayed committed to a sport that has taken him across the country.

Most recently, he and Jennifer were coaches with the semi-professional National Ringette League’s Waterloo Fire.

At the moment, John is trying to figure out what his next step is.

“Right now, I’m trying to help other people,” he said. “I think where I am leaning toward is to help other coaches coach. I’m starting to get involved myself, whether I’m kind of looking at starting my own train to train, or train coaches to train their athletes.”

That is something he said he did a bit with the Guelph Ringette Association last year.

He said he has done a lot with athletes, and wants to do more with coaches.

“I think coaches are what makes athletes great,” he said. “You get a good coach, you’re going to get a good athlete. You get a bad coach, you might still get a pretty good athlete, but you’re not going to get that great athlete.”

While he is doing all that, he is soaking in this most recent accomplishment and his role as a mentor to athletes, coaches and officials, including members of his own family, whose involvement sparked this journey 20+ years ago.

“It’s great to be a Hall of Famer, and it’s great to have these banners,” he said.

“But I think what I look back at (is) what it did for our family. It was something that we can all do together. That love of the game has not just stopped with Jenn or me, it’s continued on with my children. 

“And I’m excited to see, not what I can bring to the sport, but what they can bring to the sport now as 27 and 21-year-olds. That’s exciting to me.”