Hockey Legends

of Grande Prairie

Role Models from the Yesterday - Leaders for Tomorrow

The Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association (GPMH) recently conducted its annual year-end Memorial and Coaching Awards event at the Coca-Cola Centre. I must say – this event triggered a wave of nostalgia as I recalled my personal experience in minor hockey. The story of Two Rinks on the Bear Creek Flats is central to my experience and is recounted elsewhere on our Website. Legends associated with that story include Roy Peterson and Roy Borstad and others too numerous to mention. When Roy Peterson ran the program we signed up on his back porch for a fee of $1.00 - if we had the money. If not participation was free and if interested kids had no skates or necessary equipment it was provided.

I enthusiastically believe in and support our Minor Hockey Program that was first formally organized in 1960. Exercise and fitness is an important benefit but beyond that, with strong leadership our children and youth learn skills associated with the game and even more importantly they learn discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Hence I was honored to receive an invitation from GPMHA president Ben Radke and executive director Lorna LeBlanc to attend these events.

In the generations prior to my experience hockey was associated with lakes, ponds and patches of ice on school and neighbourhood playgrounds. When the volunteer Fire Dept was organized volunteer firemen would tour the town and flood the neighbourhood rinks if needed. Other maintenance such as cleaning the ice following a snowstorm was provided by parents nearby and the kids. My older brothers spoke of Saturday morning sessions organized by Johnny Macdonald in the old Wapiti Arena and later in the Memorial Arena. All activities: organizing, coaching and officiating them were conducted by volunteers. Family members often shared skates and other hockey equipment that consisted of “hand-me-downs” from parents or older siblings. Attempts were made to balance teams that were made up of different ability levels.

Fast forward to about 2003 and the name Carter Rowney appears on the GPMH roster. His story is told in a previous blog. He was a product of our minor hockey program and was unusually skilled. He moved through every level of the minor hockey program and for three years played Junior A hockey for the GP Storm in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. As the saying goes “the rest is history”. At age twenty-seven Carter Rowney, as a Pittsburgh Penguin has won a Stanley Cup ring.

Rowney tweeted a photo of his son, Anders, calmly sleeping in the bowl of the Stanley Cup along with his wife, Danielle.

According to recent research a local minor hockey player has a better chance at winning the Powerball or 6-49 lotteries than becoming an NHL player. That’s what: about 1 in 4,000? Carter’s success reflects well on our local minor hockey program. However, it is important to note that the quality of our minor hockey program is not measured by the number of NHL players it produces. It goes much deeper than that and reaches many children and youth not just elite players.

I applaud the efforts of the GPMH to recognize contributions to minor hockey from volunteers both past and present. Grande Prairie Herald Tribune Sports Writer, Logan Clow provided information regarding this year’s recipients. Perhaps the time will come when Carter Rowney will be among the Legends of Grande Prairie. In the meantime I wish to direct attention to several of the awards and this year’s recipients.

First - the Pete Wright Memorial Award is special to me. He was my coach, mentor and defensive partner when I played with the Grande Prairie Athletics starting at age 15. The Pete Wright Memorial Award for the Best Midget AAA Defenseman went to Brenden Kwaitkowski. He played for Ernie’s Sports Experts Midget AAA Storm. “His play throughout the year spoke volumes about his commitment to the game and his teammates. He was always eager to learn and help the team in whatever way he could,” noted coaches Chris Schmidt and Blake Cosgrove.

Brenden Kwaitkowski, right, accepting the Pete Wright Memorial Award from Dave Wright and his two daughters Jocelyn and Camryn. Photo by Stan Neufeld

Ethan Telfer, of the Don Golden Auto Body Peewee A2 Knights, was this year’s recipient of the George Repka Jr. Memorial Award. The award is presented to a player exhibiting sportsmanship and dedication on the Peewee A competitive team. “Ethan deserves this award because of his extremely positive attitude and dedication,” said coaches Marshall Radke and Tom West. The George Repka Memorial Award stands out for me as George and I were teammates during the 1977-78 South Peace Hockey League season when the Athletics won a championship. George was killed in a motor vehicle accident.

Ethan Telfer, left, with Darlene Repka. Photo by Stan Neufeld

I consider the Judith Radke memorial Award as especially important in light of the significant contributions to hockey in our community by the Radke family. That support is ongoing. Ben Radke is currently President of the Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association. It is in the best of hands. This year’s recipients of the Judith Radke Memorial Award are Alyssa Buss, Jenna Kramer, Paige Barclay and Danica Liland. The award recognizes one female in each of the atom, peewee, bantam and midget divisions who exemplify “the ideals of sportsmanship, ethical behaviour, fair play and integrity.”

Alex Radke, (back left) Ben Radke, Pamela Radke with Sarah Radke (front left) and Jenna Kramer, inner of the Judith Radke Memorial Award for PeeWees. Photo by Stan Neufeld

Recipients of the the 2016-2017 Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Memorial Awards on Wednesday May 17, 2017 at the Coca-Cola Centre in Grande Prairie, Alta. Front row Daniel Hurta (Kenny Morrow Memorial Award), Alyssa Buss (Judith Radke Memorial Award), Jenna Kramer (Judith Radke Memorial Award), Paige Barclay (Judith Radke Memorial Award), and Danica Liland (Judith Radke Memorial Award). Back row: Alex Scheck (Tim Boivin Memorial Award), Jesse Roessler (Larry Kutschinski Memorial Award), Shea Fitzgerald (Lloyd Head Memorial Award), Ethan Telfer (George Repka Jr. Memorial Award), Jace Grant (Bobby Sands Memorial Award), Caile Menard (Derek Boyd Memorial Award), and Brenden Kwaitkowski (Pete Wright Memorial Award). Photo by Stan Neufeld

It was my great pleasure to attend this year’s GPMH year-end awards ceremony. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on a bit of hockey history, remember outstanding members of our community past and present and recognize that the qualities we admire in role models from the past are carried forward by outstanding young people today. I offer my congratulations to all of this year’s award recipients.

Stan Neufeld

Carter Rowney: One Among Thousands

Today (June 11, 2017) Carter Rowney – born in Grande Prairie and raised on a nearby farm in Sexsmith (population 2771) joined his Pittsburgh Penguin teammates to hoist the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A recent study reports the chances of moving from minor hockey to a steady NHL career are roughly one in four thousand. Even greater are the odds of earning a Stanley Cup ring.

Carter Rowney developed his skills as a highly talented forward in Grande Prairie’s Minor Hockey program initially with the Golden Arrow Bantam AAA Storm (2003/04), the Boston Pizza Minor Midgets (2004/05) and during the 2005/06 season he played first for the AAA Midget Storm and later that season he moved on to play for the bantam AAA team.

Golden Arrow Bantam AAA Storm.
Photo courtesy of Grande Prairie Minor Hockey

He graduated from the minor ranks to play Junior A hockey where Brother Bob and I followed his development during the 2007/08 hockey season when he played for the Grande Prairie Storm in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. That year he distinguished himself as the team’s best two-way player. Carter played an important role in enabling the Grande Prairie Storm win the team’s second league title in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) (2008/09) and was the playoff MVP. We were convinced that he had a future as a career hockey player.

Carter Rowney, left, and Dennis Rix were part of the 2009 AJHL Championship winning team.
Photo courtesy of the Grande Prairie Storm

Since leaving his hometown Carter played with four different teams before he received a call from the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 31 of this year to face the Nashville Predators for his first appearance in the NHL at the age of 27. Following that first appearance that was witnessed by friends and family, Carter stated ”I didn’t know if I would ever shake off the nerves.” – he did and he has made a substantial contribution to the team. In game five of the series playing against Ottawa he registered three assists in Pittsburgh’s decisive win against Ottawa. As a fourth line centre he has accumulated three goals and four assists. Additionally he has been recognized for his rugged play registering the team’s most hits. At 6’2’ and 200 pounds he has the ability to slow down the opposition and does so fearlessly.

Coach Mike Sullivan states ”he is determined, he’s physical, he’s a stiff player, he’s strong on the stick, he’s good on the wall and he’s a strong face-off man.” That should not surprise those of us who remember that he was a farm boy who developed muscle and brawn shoveling grain on his Dad’s farm. Carter has fond memories of his rural roots in the Peace River country.

Bridgestone Arena on Broadway in Nashville Tennessee, the heartland of the Southern US is a long distance from the Peace River Country and seems a very unlikely location for a raucous crowd of over one hundred thousand fans to gather in a hockey arena and nearby streets to support a hockey team. Football and basketball – yes - but hockey???

Carter - In the midst of the din that has characterized Nashville hockey fans, if you listened carefully you would have heard cheers from your fans in far away Grande Prairie and Sexsmith every time you touched the puck or knocked an opponent off the puck. We are proud of you.

You have distinguished yourself as more than one in four thousand. Bring home the cup.

Stan Neufeld