Mary Cicinelli, inducted in the builder category, has contributed to the Canadian hockey community as President of the board, Board Member, Team Manager, and is currently the Honorary Treasurer for the Pan-American Hockey Federation. She is a true builder of the game at all levels.
“I must say it’s been a journey where if you told me (i’d be doing all this) 30 years ago, I would’ve said you’re all nuts,” said Cicinelli.
Cicinelli grew up in Toronto and was introduced to field hockey at Emory Collegiate High School, but took the game much more seriously when she began attending York University in 1979. “I went out for the field hockey team, not knowing anything about it,” said Cicinelli. “We played in high school, and then I realized that the coach of the team was the national coach Marina van der Merwe, but it was too late to back out because there weren’t enough players.”
She played for York University from 1979-83, but always knew that her strengths lied on the administrative end. As a player, she assisted the national team coaching staff. “I always thought I wanted to go to the Olympics, but I was never good enough as an athlete,” said Cicinelli. “But I was very good administratively.”
Following the 1984 Summer Olympics, Cicinelli was then brought into the national team as the onsite manager, making her one of the youngest managers at the time. “I was straight out of being a player in university-to being a 20 year old manager, managing people older than me,” said Cicinelli. “I went to my first meeting of the national team managers at our technical meeting, and they all looked at me to think what is this young woman doing here?”
Despite her young age, Cicinelli excelled as she helped manage the team during their bronze medal finish at the 1986 World Cup and their qualification for the 1988 Summer Olympics. However, that didn’t come without it’s sacrifices, even if it meant telling her boss she was quitting her full-time job.
“He said that he can’t set that precedent for me to leave for the Olympics because they’ve never allowed that to happen,” said Cicinelli. “I then told him that I’d made my decision and gave him my two weeks, and he was shocked.”
After the Olympics, Cicinelli’s role transitioned to on-shore manager. In the meantime, she became the first president of Field Hockey Ontario after the men’s and women associations merged into one. That trust then snowballed onto the national level where she went from a provincial representative on the Field Hockey Canada Board, to becoming Field Hockey Canada President.
Her proudest accomplishment in that role was helping organize the 2015 Pan-American games in Toronto because of what it would mean for the sport.
“For us it meant having new facilities and helping with grassroots development,” said Cicinelli. “It meant finally being allowed or being able to host international tournaments because we had a water based turf.”
Cicinelli stepped away from that role in 2012 but remains involved in sports as the Pan-American Games Honorary Treasurer. She credits the good people she’s worked with in the sport for why she continues to contribute until today. “The people are fantastic, I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve stayed as long as I have,” said Cicinelli. “I love the sport, I love watching the five year old pick up a stick, I love watching the Olympians, etc.”
When looking back, Cicinelli says she’d like to be remembered for the integrity she had for the game and the people around her.
“I think I’d like to be remembered as someone who was always fair to whatever the situation was, who always tried to see the sense of humor in it some days.” said Cicinelli. “I did it with integrity, for what was best for the situation that was presented to me at the time. I think that’s what I would like to be remembered for.”