In 2018, Autumn Makar lost her formal dining room, but gained something better — a bigger hockey family.
The manager of the Alaska Oilers Tier 1 youth hockey team in Anchorage opened her home to three of the six new players that she personally helped recruit from a competitive Colorado team that was folding. Two of the athletes were Russian.
Makar, a mother of two teenage hockey goalies, helped place some of the new recruits in homes with other families, but asked one of the coaches (a contractor) to convert her dining room into an extra bedroom so she could accommodate as many as she could. Such selfless acts and dedication to the hockey community helped her win the first-ever NHL Most Valuable Hockey Mom title, a nationwide contest that was sponsored by MassMutual.
“We didn’t really use our dining room anyway,” Makar laughed, noting that she and her husband both grew up in sports families that hosted athletes. “I actually lost my garage, too, because it was full of hockey gear, which meant outdoor parking over the winter — in Alaska. But the boys were all so great with shoveling me out of the snow.”
As the Oilers team manager, a position she has loved for the last nine years, Makar spends the long season driving the boys to practices, managing the scoreboard at games, organizing team dinners, and chaperoning the tournaments — all of which require a plane ride.
“I have been my kids’ manager since they were little, and I always felt like my role on the team was to make sure they were having fun,” she said. “These kids are so dedicated and committed, and they sacrifice a lot in their lives to compete at this level. I try to make sure that everything goes smoothly off the ice so the experience that they leave with is something that they will look back on in a positive way as they grow into young men. I just love doing it and I love all the boys. It’s really fun.”
Turning a dining room into a bedroom for hockey players.
To help the team cover the high cost of travel and keep sports affordable for all families, Makar organizes a silent auction fundraiser each year. She also creates opportunities for the team to volunteer at the local soup kitchen and homeless shelter — all while juggling a full-time job as a pharmaceutical sales representative. (Learn more: Financial advice for hockey moms ... and all sports parents)
“It’s important for the boys to give back to the community that supports them,” she said. “We depend a lot on our sponsors and it’s our way to give back. But it’s also a way for them to build character and have a true sense of gratitude for the gifts that they are given in life.”
As for the boys who play for the Oilers from out of state, including those who board in their home, the Makar family serves as their temporary guardian. And they make it a point to welcome them — Alaskan style.
“I want them to get the most that they can out of their time in Alaska,” said Makar. “We go camping and hiking and we have an ocean boat that we take them all out on to go fishing and to see the glaciers. We also took them to the state fair and to see the Iditarod [sled dog race]. Some of the more hardy boys joined us in December to go crabbing.”
It doesn’t surprise one of her fellow hockey moms, who said that Makar routinely goes above and beyond.
“What Autumn does in her day-to-day dedication to this organization has helped all of our sons be better people, as well as better players,” said Stephanie King, the team parent who nominated her for the award. “As hockey moms, we truly felt a peace knowing that we had Autumn on the road with our boys when we could not attend. She has been an integral part of the organization and we will forever be indebted to her for the wonderful gift of her time and dedication to each player who has joined the team.”
Makar said she does it because she believes that sports are important for kids. “It teaches them self-discipline, time management, and work ethic,” she said. “It also keeps them out of trouble and promotes a healthy lifestyle.”
But she’s quick to point out that she’s just one of the hockey moms at the rink who keep the team on track.
“I have an amazing group of hockey mom friends who make it all possible,” said Makar. “It’s a very close, wonderful hockey family and that’s part of why I do it. Everyone is involved and positive. I love my other hockey moms.”
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