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McGillivray Building on Passion for Hockey

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sean McGillivray’s involvement in hockey has been a coast-to-coast affair.

From a youth spent on skates in Nova Scotia to planning and developing the new Easy Street Arena in Simi Valley, McGillivray has had a love for the game and a desire to spread that passion to others.

“That’s why I want to be involved with him,” said Michigan Tech University Coach Bob Mancini, who plans to run a series of summer hockey camps at the arena next summer. “Sean’s driven, he has a fantastic work ethic and he cares about the kids he works with. I was impressed immediately by both those things.”

McGillivray, who lives with his wife and two hockey-playing sons in Thousand Oaks, was raised in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and played hockey with several classmates who eventually made National Hockey League rosters.

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“My grandmother put me on skates when I was 4 and after that I used to walk over the snow to the pond with my skates on and come home at night just dead tired,” he said.

Once he finished the Canadian equivalent of high school and graduated from Xavier College in Sydney, McGillivray found a real estate promotion job in Detroit and moved with the company to San Diego in 1968.

Shortly thereafter, his younger brother Bernie came west to attend college, and the McGillivrays got back on blades after discovering that late-night ice time could be had at a nearby rink.

Several years later, the hockey bug followed McGillivray up the coast to Los Angeles where he played in late-night adult leagues, organized the Thousand Oaks Thunder, a youth ice hockey program, and served as coach of the club team at Pierce College in 1983-84 and at Pepperdine from 1989-92. McGillivray, 49, said the Thousand Oaks Thunder is now the largest youth-hockey program in California with more than 500 players and 100 coaches.

“He’s not just a great administrator, he’s a great hockey strategist and I consider myself a student of his,” said John Arbuckle, a Thousand Oaks Thunder coach. “He’s put a system in place and kept it going so that the kids don’t have to start over when they move up from team to team.”

In 1988, with the Conejo Valley Ice Rink in Newbury Park on the verge of shutting down, McGillivray led a community protest and eventually assumed rent payments on the rink through his financial planning business in Thousand Oaks. The costs and the rink’s poor facilities led McGillivray to launch plans for a new arena and to search for a suitable site.

Now, with his $3.5-million Easy Street complex nearing completion, McGillivray sees his favorite cold-weather sport beginning to blossom in the heat of Southern California. The future for ice hockey has never looked brighter, he said.

“There are kids playing roller hockey by the thousands. They have games on cul-de-sacs and you see ‘em walking around town with their sticks and blades. It’s a replacement for the ponds we grew up on in Canada, but the kids want a taste of the real thing. They want to play on ice.”

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