An estimated 575 people attended the funeral service for the exceptional coach and outstanding mentor last Saturday at Colchester Community Funeral Home in Truro.
More than 100 of those in attendance were young hockey players wearing Truro Bearcats jerseys.
Rev. Glenn MacLean and Raj Makkar, who gave the eulogy, described Schmitt, 44, as courageous and strong during his close to two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Schmitt encouraged everyone he came in contact with while gallantly fighting his own major battle. Schmitt believed in teamwork and building good people, both with his job as operations manager for the Tim Hortons warehouse in Debert and through coaching minor hockey.
Makkar, who oversaw Schmitt’s chemo treatments at Colchester East Hants Health Centre, told a touching story how he and Mike recently shared an orange popsicle together. Large numbers of orange popsicles were then passed out and shared by those in attendance in tribute to Schmitt.
Rob Stuart, president of the Truro and Area Minor Hockey Association, felt the service was an outstanding salute to the dedicated hockey coach who gave countless hours to the sport.
“Mike was a special, caring guy,” Stuart said. “Mike touched many lives. We called on Mike for just about everything – conditioning camps, tryouts and to mentor young coaches. Mike was our go-to guy. He always came through for us. I can’t come up with the words to tell you how much I thought of Mike.”
Kevin Aucoin, the coach of Truro Bearcats bantam AA hockey team, coached alongside Schmitt since 2009.
“Mike was feeling good in the early going this season,” Aucoin said about his assistant coach. “Mike contributed a lot both on and off the ice. He was our statistician and had a big part in our practices and with our game plan. Mike always put so much time, thought and planning into hockey. Mike became more tired as the season wore on. I’ll always remember Mike’s passion for hockey. The time he devoted to his children was also remarkable. Mike was a terrific family man.”
John MacLeod, also an assistant coach to Aucoin, attended West Pictou High School with Schmitt.
“We went back a long ways,” said MacLeod. “We played on high school hockey and fastball teams together. We reconnected about seven years ago. We’ve coached together the last couple seasons. Mike was a very intelligent guy who knew a lot about everything, not just sports. Mike had a great sense of humour. He was a devoted dad and husband. Mike always thought about the other person and he was always going out of his way to do things for others. Our sons Calum and Brody are best of friends.”
David-John Hazelton, the principal at Bible Hill Junior High School, described Mike, his wife Karyn and their children as being a very athletic family. Julia was a student at Bible Hill Junior High School before attending Kings-Edgehill.
“It’s great that Julia made the Nova Scotia women’s hockey team,” Hazelton said. “She’ll be off to the Canada Games in Prince George, B.C. in February. Brody is a Grade 8 student at our school. Brody plays soccer, he was involved in track in the past and he plays hockey for Truro Bearcats AA bantam team. Brayden attends Redcliff Middle School. He’s also an exceptional all-around athlete and plays atom hockey for the Truro Bearcats.”
I recall watching Schmitt play in the Labatts West Colchester Commercial Hockey League several seasons back. Later, he helped oversee the league and was the acting statistician. Schmitt, always well-organized, helped me out considerably regarding game results and scoring statistics.
As a minor hockey coach, Mike also assisted me with a number of columns. His words, as we were about to end a telephone conversation, are still clear in my mind.
“If you find you need any further information, just call me,” Mike would say. “I’ll be only too glad to help out in any way I can.”
That describes the kind of guy Mike Schmitt was. He is going to be missed immeasurably.
We extend our sincere sympathy to Karyn, Julia, Brody, Brayden and extended family.
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.