Tribute to Galen Head
March 26, 2020 People
A Tribute to Galen Head
Number One Ambassador on the Ice, Prolific Scorer, Team Leader and Gentleman
Personally and on behalf of the Grande Prairie Hockey Legends Community I send condolences to Gracie Head and her family concerning the passing of Galen on March 14, 2020. Like Galen, I grew up playing minor hockey in Grande Prairie. Galen was just a few months my senior. I did not have the privilege of playing with Galen on minor hockey teams but we were both coached by volunteers in Grande Prairie, such as GP Hockey Legends, Roy Borstad and Roy Peterson. I share his memories of playing on the Bear Creek Flats and was well aware, not only of Galen’s outstanding hockey skills but his attitude and his character. He never flaunted his superior hockey skills. He was above all a team player – someone who made everyone who played with him look better. During Galen’s formative years his Father, Walter, was Manager of the Memorial Arena. Galen was a Rink Rat. In my opinion this was the foundation for Galen’s superior hockey ability.
The first opportunity I had of playing hockey with Galen was at age fifteen when we were invited to play with the Senior Grande Prairie Athletics. GP Hockey Legend Pete Wright was our coach. Pete was a scout for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Galen and I made the cut and for a brief period we played together with the Oil Kings. In Edmonton Galen, Ace Bailey and I roomed together. As the school term was at hand, Oil King GM, Bill Hunter gave us a credit card to purchase books for the school year. We returned with a big bill, a basket filled with books and good intentions but the books were only opened to place our names in them. During this period Galen and I hitch-hiked to and from Edmonton several times to keep touch with our families.
Following a short stint with the Kings our careers took different turns. I returned to my former job at the Herald Tribune followed by a stint as a sports reporter with the Edmonton Journal and then enrolled at U of A to become a physical education teacher. Galen continued to play hockey and enjoyed a sparkling career. For detailed information regarding Galen’s hockey career and his remarkable contributions to hockey please refer to Galen Head: His Hockey History and the Tale of Two Cities on our web site.
Here I wish to pay tribute to Galen’s character. I have already mentioned that as early as minor hockey Galen’s lack of ego and his “giving” nature was evident. As a teenager in Junior hockey he had coaches that might have taught more than just the mechanics of the game. When he finished life as a hockey player he and Gracie married and he coached hockey until his health failed.
A tribute to Galen also comes from Dave Emerson, Galen’s friend from childhood. “Galen was a couple of years younger than I but we hung out together a lot. We spent endless hours at the ballpark and in Galen’s back yard batting out flies in summer. In winter we played a lot of road hockey beside Leslie’s Autocourt or on the millpond at the Grande Prairie Lumber mill. Galen’s father, Walter Head, ran the Grande Prairie Memorial Arena during all my hockey years in Grande Prairie. I would hang around with Galen when he accompanied his Dad to the rink and stayed late while Walt flooded the ice. This gave us endless opportunities to practice after public skating and resulted in significant improvement to our shooting and skating skills. Galen and I were both rink rats and, in return for our ice cleaning work, we were given an opportunity to play ‘rink rat hockey’ every Saturday morning. I would get up early to be at the rink when Galen and his Dad opened the rink by 8 am. As we got into organized hockey Galen and I would play together under the coaching of Tommy Hamilton. I think our team was called the Panthers then Thunderbirds. I was captain of our Grande Prairie high school hockey team and had the opportunity to recruit some younger players to join our team. I recruited Galen from Montrose Junior High. We went on to win the championship and Galen was a star performer. Galen lives on in my fondest memories of my youth. He was one of my hometown heroes. My thoughts and sympathies go out to his family and friends.” (David Emerson).
Galen knew the mechanics of the game but most importantly he will be remembered for his sensitivity, his empathy, and generosity. One of Galen’s biggest fans in Johnstown Pennsylvania is Johnstown Tribune-Democrat Sports Reporter, Mike Mastovitch. In 2010 Mastovich learned that Galen (age 63) was battling multiple health problems. Word concerning his health reached the Johnstown Chiefs Office and the ECHL team initiated a fund raising campaign for his medical expenses. When word of the campaign reached Galen he responded, “ “I’m feeling much better. I’m battling my illnesses, and I feel good about it. I’m going to survive. I’m not going away. I’m going to be around.”
While he was moved by the good will, Head felt any money raised should go to help others. “If they want to continue with the fund-raiser in my name that’s fine. There are a number of children here (in Johnstown) who are traveling back and forth to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Maybe it could be used for them. Somebody could use it more than I could. I really do appreciate the gesture. It’s an honest gesture and a well-meaning gesture. But I feel there are other people who could benefit from such a fundraiser.”
Galen was, “one of the founders of the perennially tough Bishop McCort High School team and coached the Crushers to three of their five state championships. In the mid-1990s Head became a volunteer assistant coach with the ECHL’s Chiefs and served in that capacity for a number of years. The Galen Head Jr. Memorial Scholarship benefits area high school hockey players and is in honour of Head’s son, a former Chiefs and AHL-IHL equipment manager who died in an automobile accident in 1996.” (Mastovich, Tribune-Democrat.)
Galen had a significant impact on the game of hockey wherever he played and coached. His impact was not confined to skills and abilities associated with the game as you can read from his hockey resume but from his character. As Dave Emerson stated, “We are proud to recognize him as a Grande Prairie Hero”, and on behalf of the GP Hockey Legends, we are proud to recognize him as a legend.
READ GALEN’S STORY …
Chairperson, GP Hockey Legends