Hilda Donati did not just limit her love for the game of hockey to spectating, although those who knew her remember her as one of the most dedicated fans of Port Arthur teams. This outstanding builder of northwestern Ontario youth hockey contributed many years to the development of the game.
Hilda first got involved in the game of hockey playing for a girls team while growing up in Manitoba. Moving to Port Arthur in the early 1930s, Hilda became on executive member of the Port Arthur West End Junior Hockey Organization, a position she held for many years.
Hilda’s affiliation with Pee Wee hockey began in 1942. Tom Crompton, then President of the Port Arthur Minor Hockey Association mentioned to Hilda while visiting her coffee shop, that there was no one willing to sponsor one of the teams in the Pee Wee division of the league. Hilda took up the challenge, taking over the sponsorship and coaching duties. As if in a storybook, Hilda's team went on to win the Pee Wee championship title that year.
Realizing the number of youngsters who wanted to play hockey but were unable to make the Pee Wee teams in the minor leagues, Hilda decided to create the opportunity for them. Acting as the prime fundraiser, organizer and manager, Hilda established Thunder Bay's first Pee Wee hockey league in 1945.
In its first year of operation, 'Hilda's League', as it was called, consisted of eight teams, with each one of the players being personally selected, assigned and outfitted by this one-woman executive. By 1948, the league had grown to include over 20 teams, with Hilda's Canadiens playing the Midget, Bantam and Juvenile circuit as well. The league continued on until the early 1950s.
Sadly, this outstanding builder of amateur sports passed away suddenly in 1956. Her outstanding efforts allowed thousands of young players, who otherwise may not have had the chance, to participate in the game of hockey.
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 17, 1988