The Triad Alliance Youth Hockey Organization and the Winston Salem Hockey community lost a cherished Ice Hockey Coach and a true leader to systemic cancer in the early hours of November 19, 2018.
On and off the ice, the nurturing presence and huge smiles of our beloved USA Hockey Level 4 Coach, Mentor, and Friend in John Atkins will be forever missed. He tirelessly invested in the lives of hundreds of our Florida and Triad youth—genuinely and selflessly taking a personal interest to impart a deep and lasting value into the hearts and minds of each of the young people entrusted to his coaching over the years. Players felt heard, valued and grew personally because of his investment of time and energy.
“Coach John” ”—as he was affectionately referred to by fellow coaches, parents and players alike—believed, lived and poured out what every “Exemplary Coach” desires to instill in his players: a deep love of the game; sportsmanship, with a good attitude; and a keen sense of discipline coupled with a tenacity for the fundamentals and skills required to excel at the game. Above all else, he consistently, authentically and continuously encouraged kids. No one ever had to guess his true love for the game of hockey, but more importantly, he faithfully and tirelessly loved and cared about (and for) the young people he coached.
Despite having no kids of his own, he considered each of “my hockey kids” to be “my kids”. Players fondly recall one of his sayings: “I’m just teaching you kids about life. It just happens to be around this fantastic game of hockey.”
It has been said that all it takes for a child to heal is to have one person that loves and believes in them. For those who experienced John as Coach and Friend, no one ever fell outside his love and encouragement. In the words of Cyrano: “like the oak sheltering multitudes.”
“Coach John” played a pivotal role in the organizational leadership, coaching and family-focused activities of the legacy Winston Salem Ice Hawks community at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum Annex and the Greensboro Ice House for a decade. His participation over the years contributed meaningfully to Ice Hockey in the Triad. The hearts and prayers of John’s ice hockey families are lovingly offered to his wife of 28 years, Carol Atkins.
Thank you, “Coach John”—for you will be tremendously missed by us all, yet never forgotten as a model Coach and leader you are. Rest assured, your teaching and conduct—on and off the ice—lives on in the hearts, minds, actions of each player honored to have played under and for you.
Shawn & Alison, Aristea, Andrew, Peyton, William & Carrie Gaudet de Lestard