Sean McGovern is one of the faces behind the success of the Rupert Rampage you don’t see — and that’s just the way he likes it.
He would really rather be anywhere else than in the newspaper. He’s content with putting in his hard work sight of the big crowds that make the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre swell throughout each winter season.
The son of landed immigrants from Northern Ireland and Scotland, Sean arrived in Prince Rupert as a one-year-old. Initially, his parents were slated to only be here for a six-month stay but enjoyed the small booming coastal town and settled in.
Before hitting the ice with a hockey stick, Sean cut his skating teeth through a figure skating program at seven years old.
When Sean joined the minor league in high school, he was finally infected with the hockey bug.
Sean and his friends spent almost every day, in storming weather or rainbow and sunshine, tearing up the Rupert roads playing street hockey. The best spot was the cul de sac at Barrow Place. Sean said that if the weather became too much to handle, they played in an undercover area in Westview.
“It was kind of dangerous [there] because there were all sorts of steel beams and poles all over the place — but we survived,” he said.
Using the charge account of a friend’s dad at the local sports supplies shop, Sean and the boys, who included the current Rampage coach and general manager Roger Atchison and Ron German, kept well-supplied, buying all the gear they needed to play.
They made their own make-shift jerseys from clothing, even sewing on the backs their player numbers. They painted their goalie masks the colours of their favourite team — the Vancouver Canucks for Sean. To this day, Sean still self-identifies as a “Canuckle-head.”
However, playing hockey was put on hold during his last years in high school due to a back issue while his love for the sport continued.
Sometime close to graduation, Sean cast his net into the booming fishing industry and took up a job at a fish farm for two years.
“It was fun. It was good. I worked with good people,” Sean said.
Seeing a bright future in the industry, he enrolled in the fish technicians program at Northwest Community College.
Devastatingly, the time was not good. In the middle of the program, all the fish farms in the region shut down.
“It was a shock. There was no work for anyone,” Sean said.
Luckily, he secured a job at the pulp mill, where he worked for the next decade.
During these years, Sean made a return to the rink and jumped back into a recreational hockey league. He engaged in free training opportunities. He learned how to operate large equipment and vehicles. One of his new certifications included a commercial driver’s licence. The driver’s licence was the ultimate connection with the Rupert Rampage.
As a side gig, Sean drove charter buses across the region. Even working at a new job for the federal government, his bus driving side hustle continued.
This led him to a reunion with his childhood friends Atchison and German. Welcomed with open arms into the Rampage fold, Sean was contracted to drive the team on a road game to the Interior.
Sean expected that first charter to be a regular, quietly calm bus ride like most others he’d done before. He quickly realized he was wrong.
“It was lots of laughs, lots of camaraderie and lots of fun. Never a dull moment,” he said. “It’s a good group of people, community-minded people, who like hockey. It’s awesome,” he said.
He was also introduced to the late Jules Robinson who was “a walking, talking encyclopedia of men’s hockey in Prince Rupert.”
One of the first things Robinson taught him was the cemented traditional, some would say obligatory, two honks at the half-hour tower.
That first trip changed his view of the team. Before this trip, Sean had not attended Rampage games. However, from then on, he would never miss another.
Over the years, his role evolved. He became more invested in the seasonal operations of the team. He shifted into a volunteer position from his previous contracted bus chartering. He gained more responsibilities.
“I’ve always been taught when I’m asked to be of service, you’ve got to say yes,” he said.
Not that many people get the chance to ask. When Sean sees something that needs addressing, he does it.
“Whatever needs to be done, I stand up and try and help out. There’s a lot of stuff that happens behind the scenes to make it all happen,” he said. “It’s a big show to pull off a game.”
Whether it’s getting water, towels, setting up game sheets or lowering the nets, he’ll jump on it.
“It’s just filling a void, help out and be of service,” Sean said.
He’s naturally an introverted person, he said. Involvement with the team helped him become more involved with the community — while still staying out of the spotlight.
“I’m a behind-the-scenes guy,” Sean said. “It brings me a sense of community being of service.”
On any given game, you’ll find him at the far end of the ice rink, opposite from the fan entrance, watching the Rampage battle it out on the ice. If you look carefully during a home game, Sean will be the one blasting the air horn to celebrate after each Rampage goal.
“For a volunteer, I got the best job,” he said with a big grin.
About two years ago, Sean took ta further step in helping run the team and joined the executive board
“What really surprised me is that there’s a core group of people that are making it happen. They are making good decisions and are making this team probably the biggest success within the league. That’s what I’m really proud of today,” he said. “The work and the time that’s put into it is actually mind-boggling. What’s nice is how members of the community stand up and support the team to make it all happen. It’s the volunteers that make it happen.”
Today, Sean continues to help run the inner dealings making Rampage a success year after year.
“I think what makes this team a success is the people in this community, the people that stand up to the plate to volunteer and make it all happen,” he said. “I’m happy to be part of it.”