By Lethbridge Herald on September 21, 2023.
By Justin Seward
Don Gatto was recognized for his volunteer efforts in hockey in this city and previously in Carstairs/Crossfield at the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame Awards Gala recently.
Gatto was the recipient of the inaugural Robert Clark Legacy Award, which goes to someone who displays passion, leadership, collaboration and integrity in making growth and improvements to the game.
Clark lived in Carstairs as an MLA and Gatto in Crossfield as their mayor and it was there a friendship grew through baseball and hockey.
“Because it was Bob Clark’s award, that (I) was so honoured to receive it,” said Gatto.
“I’ve known him, like I say for a good 50 years of my life. So it was quite an honour to have an individual like him and me get selected as the first award winner.”
Being a dedicator and promoter of the game, Gatto spent over 30 years working on doing those things for the sport in the province and country.
He served in capacities such as Hockey Alberta president and shortly after was named the chair of Canadian Amateur Hockey Association Minor council, then he became the first co-chair/director for the Hockey Alberta Foundation, coached on a volunteer basis for 11 years and served as director of Crossfield Minor Hockey.
When he moved to Lethbridge in 1988, he found himself as the director of Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame, the University of Lethbridge Hockey alumni chair and the Lethbridge Sport Council director for 10 years.
He was inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame as a builder, was awarded Hockey Canada’s Outstanding Volunteer award and was actively involved in the Lethbridge Hockey Hounds organization.
“Well, it usually starts off with your son, or daughter or somebody playing hockey and so that’s where mine started off, the same as everybody else in Alberta,” said Gatto.
“And then pretty soon you’re coaching them, pretty soon you’re refereeing, pretty soon you’re looking after minor hockey problems and pretty soon they’re promoting you up the ladder, which you really don’t feel like going sometimes but that’s the way it happens.”
Becoming a Hockey Alberta Life Member in 2007, being president and past president of Hockey Alberta, getting on Hockey Canada’s board , receiving an outstanding volunteer award from Hockey Canada, winning a Hockey Alberta Centennial award were all memories that stood out to Gallo.
“They’re all just wonderful,” said Gallo.
“I mean you don’t get involved in the sport for awards. You get involved to help the kids out.”
Bob Clark was involved in many capacities in hockey for a half a century.
He was passionate about the growth and improvement of the game for athletes and administrators.
Clark played a pivotal part of Carstairs Minor Hockey, the Olds Grizzlies and the AJHL.
Clark passed away in 2021.