CHIPPEWA FALLS — Bob Normand will be inducted in the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame in September. However, the Chippewa Falls native never played hockey and jokes that he can barely stay up on skates.
Normand, 63, is being honored next month because of his decades of volunteer work in the area. He was elected as president of the Chippewa Youth Hockey Association in 2003, and still serves in that position. He also has served as director of the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association since 1993.
Normand was stunned when he learned this spring he was named to the Hall of Fame.
“To be honored for a sport I didn’t play, but grown to love, is just amazing to me,” Normand said. “Humbling is definitely the word for it. I just felt what I was doing was what was needed to help the association.”
Steve Gibbs, a Chippewa County judge, has two children who have been involved in the hockey organization. Gibbs first submitted an application for Normand’s nomination in spring 2017.
“When Bob got involved in our rink, CYHA was roughly 10 years old,” Gibbs wrote. “We had one sheet of ice with no refrigeration system. Bob was involved in the planning and construction of the artificial ice plant, including physical cement and rebar work, as our volunteers did all of the work on the artificial ice surface.”
The Chippewa Area Ice Arena, 839 First Ave., has continued to grow in size, as the CYHA added a new rink on the south side of the building, and more recently, a $1.2 million expansion that included new locker rooms and an outdoor rink with a roof, allowing the ice to stay longer in the winter months.
“Throughout the various problems which any association goes through, Bob has been the one constant factor which kept everyone calm and organized,” Gibbs wrote.
CYHA board secretary Jennifer Lindstrom also wrote a letter endorsing Normand’s selection for the Hall of Fame, saying she appreciates Normand’s attention to detail.
“Bob does an excellent job of leading our board members comprised of many different professional trades from experts in HVAC to construction to banking,” she wrote. “He always keeps a cool head, keeps us on track, strives for fairness, and leads by example.”
Wife took him skating
Normand grew up in Chippewa Falls, graduating from Chippewa Falls High School in 1973. He didn’t play hockey, but his wife was involved in figure skating, and she took him to an area rink when they started dating.
“I went out a few times, but I really didn’t skate,” he said. “My wife was the one who signed the kids up.”
They have three daughters and a son. The eldest girl was in figure skating, their son was in hockey, and their youngest daughters did both.
The Chippewa Area Ice Arena, with that single rink, was constructed in 1977. Normand joined the CYHA when his children began skating. He decided to volunteer for the organization, because that defrayed the costs of ice time for his children. He was given the job of scheduling ice time.
“I just kept getting involved,” Normand said. “I’ve probably worked every job here at one time or another. Sometimes, it’s more like a part-time job.”
Normand was appointed as director of the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association, which made him responsible for the northwest region of the state from Chippewa Falls to Superior. He also was director of the Pee Wee league, setting up tournaments throughout the state.
Hockey growth in Chippewa Falls
The hockey association has about 370 children involved in all age levels, plus another 70 members in the figure skating club.
“It’s a slow growth, but we’re growing,” Normand said. “For the longest time, we’ve been one of the better kept secrets in Chippewa Falls.”
In October 2000, construction began on the south wing to add a second ice sheet. It was finished in January 2004.
A remodel allowed for year-round ice on the newer rink on the south side of the building in 2015. Normand said that has been a game-changer.
“It’s been really good for our programs, and we’re able to rent ice time to other organizations,” he said.
The club raised $215,000 to pay for new dehumidification equipment that allows the ice to stay in the building all year. Without the equipment, the arena could become foggy with ice melt and it could cause the interior of the building to start rusting.
During the middle of the day Friday, children from the Boys & Girls Club stopped in to skate.
“We bring in kids through the day because the ice is here,” he said.
The building also offers free open skate time on Sunday evenings.
The new rink also was a factor in drawing the Chippewa Steel to the building last year, bringing rent, plus a split on food and beer concessions. The NAHL team has meant additional revenue for the building, and they’ve been able to schedule in all the home games for high school teams around the Steel’s schedule.
“We do everything we can to keep our fees down,” he said. “We are the only two-sheet hockey arena in the state run entirely by volunteers.”
The Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place Sept. 7 in Eagle River. There is a permanent Hall of Fame building at that rink, he explained.
“It’s the second-oldest rink in Wisconsin,” Normand said. “It’s an all-wood dome.”
Normand is among four people being inducted that day. Another notable inductee that day is Brianna Decker, who played hockey for the Wisconsin Badgers and for the USA hockey team.
Normand was completely unaware of the work being done behind the scenes by members of the CYHA on compiling the nomination papers; he was caught off-guard when informed he was a finalist.
Normand said all his children are coming, along with seven of his eight grandchildren. He is shocked this is all happening.
“I love the sport, I love the kids, and now they’re saying you’re getting honored for doing that,” he said.