With mixed emotions, the Okanagan Hockey Group has announced that long-time employee Michael O’Rafferty has decided to pursue a new job opportunity and will be leaving Okanagan Hockey effective November 24.
O’Rafferty, who has been with Okanagan Hockey since 2003, has accepted a position at the Royal Bank of Canada in Penticton.
“I will remember the people the most,” said O’Rafferty. “When I came here I was pretty young and wide-eyed. I had never worked with such high-end professionals as I did here, being surrounded by guys like Robert Dirk, Tim Hunter, Craig Bedard and everyone here. I was a guy that never played in the NHL that was thrown into a room with guys that had so much experience and knowledge. To be able to pick guy’s brains that played in the NHL for a long time and had a couple Stanley Cups; it was basically a classroom for me.”
The native of St. John’s, Newfoundland started with Okanagan Hockey Camps in 2003 at the age of 22 where he was a Camp Counsellor before running the off-ice dry-land training aspect of the Camps. O’Rafferty has spent nearly a decade coaching with the Okanagan Hockey Academy, most recently as an Assistant Coach with Prep Red, where he will continue to be behind the bench for a number of games this season. Some of his other roles within Okanagan Hockey were in a recruiting capacity, as well as an Assistant General Manager and Assistant Coach with the Junior “B” Penticton Lakers.
“We are very pleased to congratulate Michael on his career decision,” said Okanagan Hockey Group President, Andy Oakes. “Michael has been a great staff member at Okanagan Hockey for the past 11 years. His contribution to our organization was felt in the camps and academy over the years. His ability to develop and foster relationships with the players and parents was second to none. We wish him all the best in his new career.”
O’Rafferty spent a lot of his years at Okanagan Hockey alongside Robert Dirk, the current Head Coach of Prep Red and veteran of 441 NHL games.
“It’s very tough for me personally,” said Dirk. “We have been together here for eight years and we spent the first three years together as Head Coach and Assistant Coach. Not only did we become very close colleagues, we became close friends. We like to say around here its Batman and Robin, and now Batman is losing Robin. Working alongside him has been tremendous. He helped me with the transition from playing and coaching pro hockey to coaching minor hockey and developing kids so they can reach the next step in their careers. There is a transition and mindset coaches have to make as they change levels, and he helped me make that. I am definitely going to miss him and the whole organization will miss him.”
“I can honestly say I never woke up one day and said ‘I don’t want to go to work,’” said O’Rafferty, who met his wife, Lindsay, during his time with Okanagan Hockey. “It has never been hard for me to go to work because for me, it’s not work, it’s a lifestyle. Not one day did I wake up and ever say ‘I hate my job.’ For me, it’s starting a new chapter and expanding on one of my interests, and finances is something I have always had an interest in.
“It will be very, very hard to leave.”
Choosing Okanagan Hockey Academy was one of the best decisions I have made for my development. The relationships I built with my teammates, coaches, and staff are bonds that will last a lifetime. The structure of the program on and off the ice prepared me to play junior hockey.