By MYRON LOVE Ian MacArton and Ben Blankstein are first cousins who share a passion for hockey – a passion which has led to leadership roles in amateur hockey in Winnipeg and Manitoba respectively.
Blankstein and McArton are grandsons of Marjorie and the late Morley Blankstein, both long time community leaders and philanthropists. Both young men have been involved in hockey on and off the ice for virtually their entire lives.
Ian McArton has been the executive director of Hockey Winnipeg for the past four years. The son of Carol and the late Barry McArton (who was a past chair of the CJA campaign) and long time member of the Rady JCC, Ian says that he began playing hockey at the age of seven.
“I grew up in St. Boniface,” McArton notes. “I played for local teams – first as forward and later on defense.
“Hockey is a great team game,” he observes. ‘It is all about team work, camaraderie and friendship.”
Ben Blankstein was introduced to hockey as a five-year-old. The son of Mary and Leo Blankstein continued to play hockey for various local teams – playing left wing generally – throughout high school, and reports that he continues to play with friends.
Blankstein turned to coaching in first year university– coaching in the under 15 and under 18-year-old categories. McArton, who is five years older than his cousin, started his coaching career while in first year university.
“A friend of mine had been asked by a neighbor to coach a group of 9-year-olds playing in a house league,” McArton recalls. “He asked me to help him. I picked up a lot of tips about coaching that year.”
McArton has a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Management and Community Development from the University of Manitoba Department of Kinesiology – graduating in 2010. While at university, he worked for YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg as Youth Coordinator charged with managing staff, volunteers and campers.
After graduation, he served first as manager of athlete development for Special Olympics Manitoba for four years before moving on to the University of Winnipeg as facility and events co-ordinator for Wesmen Athletics. He started at Hockey Winnipeg in 2017 as development co-ordinator and was promoted to executive director the next year.
“Hockey Winnipeg’s mandate,” he explains, “revolves around managing the business operations of minor hockey in Winnipeg. We have about 9.000 young players and 3,000 coaches participating in our programs. The core of what we do is register the players and teams and help the ten minor hockey associations in the city to develop their programs. We also run our own development programs.”
Ben Blankstein, who grew up in River Heights, followed his older cousin’s path into the University of Manitoba Department of Kinesiology, also graduating - last year – with a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Management and Community Development and earning a place on the Dean’s Honours List.
“I was able to do my student field work with Ian at Hockey Winnipeg dealing mainly with coaches and officials clinics and learning how to implement various clinics on and off the ice,” he says. “When I saw the Hockey Manitoba job posting for a co-ordinator for coaching development, I thought it would be a very good fit for me.”
The fishing enthusiast (he was a fishing guide at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge during the summers while attending university) began this current stage of his life last November. “I am responsible for the certification of all hockey coaches in the province,” he points out. “In the past few months, we have also developed a high-performance coaching program as well as a mentorship program for women who are becoming coaches.”
As with all other activities in our province and across the country, both Hockey Manitoba and Hockey Winnipeg were shut down for a time due to the Covid lockdowns as well as operating with various health restrictions in place for several months more.
McArton notes that Hockey Winnipeg’s core of volunteers did a great job working within the guidelines. “I am very happy to report that this fall, we are back to full programming,” he adds. “I believe the community is better for it.”