Got a whistle?
Got gloves and a helmet?
T-L Photo/KIM LOCCISANO
Since its founding in 1964, thousands of local skaters and their families have been able to enjoy the hugely popular sport of ice hockey — as spectators and as participants — thanks in large part to the tireless dedication of volunteers who are the lifeblood of the Wheeling Area Hockey Association (WAHA). One such individual is Bridgeport native and lifelong resident Dick Riley (second from right). Riley came into the sport as an interested parent who had previously never been on skates, much less played ice hockey. Today, he is considered by many to be the driving force behind countless successes the organization and its skaters have been able to realize. Riley is seen here with several of WAHA’s key organizational leaders who came to this region originally as professional hockey players with either the Wheeling Thunderbirds or the Wheeling Nailers, and who individually decided to make it their home — the place they decided to put down roots. Standing from left to right, Former members of Wheeling’s Thunderbirds or the Nailers are Steve Kerr, Brock Woods, Zac Herron, Tim Roberts, Riley, and Stef Brennare, who are key volunteers with WAHA - and are themselves now “hockey parents.”
If your answer is yes, then basically you've got the essence of the hockey connection Bridgeport native Dick Riley has - one he's had since putting his first child on skates and into pads and uniform through the programs of the popular ice hockey resources rooted locally at the Wheeling Park ice rink, and at the Wesbanco Arena.
Riley has been selected as the October spotlighted recipient of the "Hey! That's My Neighbor" designation. This month seemed perfect for his selection for this recognition because it is the regional start of the skating season - a time when if you want to find him, your best chance is to head for a hockey game at either Wesbanco or Wheeling Park.
Most parents know from the start of any new activity about how long their child is likely to show interest in any given pursuit.
All four of Dick and Betty Riley's sons skated as members of WAHA division team members, with two continuing their interest at the club level while in college at what was then Wheeling Jesuit College.
Several grandchildren now actively skate with local programs in the Morgantown area.
Although he learned to skate at public sessions on weekends at the local park's rink as an adult, Riley's commitment to hockey and all things skating is genuine and has deep roots among family and friends as well.
When Riley stepped out on the ice the first time, he was not only the parent of a new hockey player, but he was also filling the role of the required adult for a teenager wanting to serve as a team coach.
Much has changed over the passing decades within the region's skating communities, both among hockey and figure skaters, but thankfully, Riley's willingness to continue his major commitment of sharing personal time and resources is as strong today as at any time over the nearly four decades during which he has been part of the WAHA family. At the time of the organization's 20th anniversary season, he was commissioner,with oversight for the whole organization and its programs.
Today, he continues to hold a voting position on the organization's board and is serving as commissioner for the youngest group of skaters - those ages 4 to 6 who register as members of the Tim Bits Division.
There is really no post or job he has not served in or substituted for over his many years of participation in WAHA and as part of the region's skating community.
Two local men who work with him often on projects of all sizes are Tim Roberts, a former Thunderbird, who is now the WAHA Commissioner and was a point person in the successful effort to raise the money needed to keep the Nailers as an organization headquartered at Wesbanco - a deal which essentially made hockey team owners of WAHA skaters and their families.
Nat Goudy, Operations Manager at the local park, joined Roberts and WAHA in praising Riley's quiet ways that lead to resounding and effective successes seen on and around the ice surface and around the popular public venue as well.
Riley is not one to blow his own horn; he would prefer to see credit for goals realized go to others.
He will, however, humbly acknowledge he has not only been active in local hockey programs as a parent, but at times has also served as coach, referee, division commissioner, and even as the singular head of the WAHA organization.
But in truth, his favorite part of the story of WAHA and of local hockey programs at large is easy to share: everything is done in an ongoing effort to make any skating experience a positive one for any young skater, no matter their means or natural skating skills.
But the park's rink is hardly the only spot you can expect to see the busy Bridgeport resident at the Wesbanco Arena anytime the Nailers are due to play.
He has a favorite seat at the local arena, one which affords him a unique view of the on-ice action. He has been a goal judge for the team at Wesbanco for more than 20 years.
When it came time for Wheeling Thunderbirds Hockey to take to the ice, he joined in on the effort almost from the first day and continues today to be an integral part of the Nailer's support personnel, and he does it all as a volunteer.
What do Riley and his wife, Betty, consider their absolute favorite hockey teams to follow? Those which their grandsons and granddaughter are included in the team roster, and for that they have to travel to Morgantown as proud grandparents - always a trip worth making.