Elysha DeRose was not expecting Peter Puck ownership to feel like it did on Day 1.
“My husband pulled up in the parking lot and I was like, ‘I think I’m going to throw up,‘” DeRose said.
“This has been such a sustainable program for 30 years. I needed it to go well. I needed it to be successful on the first day as a new owner because all these people already have premeditated notions of how this is supposed to go for them.”
Last month, Dianna Hartnell sold her Kamloops institution to DeRose, handing over the reins to the kids’ hockey program Hartnell had championed since 1987.
While DeRose was trying not to get sick with nerves on Oct. 7, the first day of a new era in Peter Puck, Hartnell was crying at home.
“The first class, I probably spent the day in tears,” said Hartnell, who was emotional during the phone call. “OK, I’m not going to break down to you. I’ve probably done this before. Anyway, yeah, it was tough. My doctor said it’s best for me to give it up.”
Hartnell had open-heart surgery in January.
“I’m getting older,” she said. “It’s time.”
DeRose, one of Hartnell’s trusted instructors, began showing interest in purchasing the program about three years ago, but recent family additions — one-year-old daughter Lennie and three-year-old son Deacon — made her think twice about taking the plunge this fall.
“At first, I said no,” DeRose, a former minor hockey coach, said of Hartnell’s offer. “The next day, I said to my husband, I have to call her back. After having kids of my own, that was just where I wanted to be. That’s where I want to make sure we could instil the love of the game into kids. At this age, you have a chance to make it fun for them and make it something they can truly enjoy learning. Those kids are so funny.”
That passion is the primary reason Hartnell chose DeRose to be her successor.
“She just has such a heart to her,” Hartnell said. “I know she’ll do good. She knows the program. She was taught by me, right?
“I’ve met amazing, amazing people. Every week, I run into people. They say, ‘We hear you’re not doing it any more. You’re leaving such a legacy.’ They get me in tears in the stores. I’m a sissy pants, eh?”
Among Hartnell’s Peter Puck graduates is Kamloops Blazers’ star forward Logan Stankoven, who dined with her son, Sean, earlier this year at Dallas Stars’ training camp in Texas.
“The kids. That’s what I get out of it,” Hartnell said. “It’s going to be tough when I run into them and they ask, ‘Where have you been?’ I get a lot of people, they’re 25 or 30 now, and they still remember Peter Puck.”
The transfer of ownership took place at Hartnell’s home.
“Oh, Dianna. In a matter of those three hours I was there, she had laughed, got mad and cried, gone through every emotion she could — and fair enough,” DeRose said.
“It’s kind of like she’s sending one of her babies off. She’s moulded it into what it is today and I think she was struggling with letting go, but also knowing it was time.”
Hartnell wasn’t ready to sell three years ago. She wasn’t ready last year, either.
She was never going to be truly prepared to move on.
“Make sure you say it,” Hartnell reminded KTW. “Remember, if you can’t skate, you can’t play the game.”
Over wine and chatter, DeRose ensured Hartnell the mantra will live on, along with her legacy.
“We cheersed our glasses,” DeRose said.