Hockey Legends

of Grande Prairie

Events

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.


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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.


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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.


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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.”


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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


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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

Soldiers Ready For Rink and Battlefield

By Ron Neufeld

On July 8, 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau announced, “Canada will send a battle group of soldiers to Latvia by early 2017 as part of a NATO plan to counter fears of Russian aggression in eastern Europe.” The Latvian President, Raimonds Vejonis was quick to respond acknowledging that Canadians and Latvians have a common bond: hockey.  It is worth noting that Canada and Latvia faced off in the quarter finals of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.  Like Canadians, Latvians love hockey and Vejonis is hoping that Canadian soldiers who will start arriving early next year “will be up for a game.” (The Province Monday July 11, 2016).

This invitation from the Latvian President triggers memories of the role Canadian soldiers played in the introduction of hockey to Europe more than seven decades ago during WW11.  The Juno Beach Centre located in Normandy France is a museum that is dedicated to honour Canadian troops who landed on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944.  According to an article entitled “Dispatches From Juno: Hockey During the Second World War (November 4, 2014), “Canadians stationed in England trained for years before being sent to Sicily and Italy in 1943, and to Normandy in June 1944. Hockey was central to the social fabric and cohesion of the units stationed there. Tournaments on bases in Canada and in English towns enabled Canadian soldiers and English civilians to interact around the social event that a hockey night creates. The Maple Leaf, the Canadian Army’s newspaper during the Second World War, reported on games as did the plethora of regimental newspapers published in the field to provide humour and news from home for the fighting man overseas.” Most importantly, when the puck dropped in the face off circle it was “game on”. Players and spectators were able for the duration of the game to forget the horrors of war – the risks to life and limb – the consequences of dropping bombs and flying bullets. When the puck dropped the war stopped.


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Sixteen Grande Prairie hockey players gave their lives in combat overseas during WW11.  It is our fervent hope that current tensions in Eastern Europe will not result in warfare and loss of life.  If that should occur – the enemy beware.  During WW1 and WW11 Canadian soldiers proved to be as formidable in combat as they were on the ice: creative, skillful, daring and persistent.  In the meantime Canadians and Latvians will stand side by side in the political stand off but will tilt against each other on the ice and fans will be treated to some international hockey.

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Ron Neufeld resides in Vancouver but is Grande Prairie born and raised. He played hockey with teams such as Legion, Red Devils and Athletics. Along with Stan Neufeld, he serves as the editor and project’s “pen” writing Legend biographies and other material as needed. As a founding member of the Grande Prairie Legends of Hockey committee Ron has played a key role in the success of the project.

Educational services and advocacy for people with special needs has been a major theme throughout Ron’s career with experience in the disciplines of education, mental health and corrections. He has taught, conducted research and served in administrative positions in university settings in both Canada and the United States and is among the pioneers of distance education technologies to promote independent learning and open access to information for students in post secondary institutions. Ron is a retired professor Emeritus from the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education. He holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., an M.A. from George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville Tennessee, a B.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and a B.A. from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

NHL Hometown Hockey

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On a bitterly cold January day a convoy of trucks converged on the parking lot of Revolution Place, home to the Grande Prairie Storm Junior Hockey team. Like an army of ants employees of the NHL Hometown Hockey Program swarmed the parking lot. Overnight the parking lot took on the appearance of a midwinter circus replete with tents, an outdoor rink, live music and Hometown Hank the clown. It was the NHL’s Hometown Hockey program featuring Grande Prairie’s minor hockey program.

During a televised NHL game between Chicago and Montreal Ron McLean turned his attention to Grande Prairie. For two days there were minor hockey games in Revolution Place, pick up hockey on the outdoor ice surface on the parking lot and there was entertainment in the tents. One tent featured a Hot Stove League chaired by Tara Sloan, Canadian rock vocalist and television personality. Interviewed by Ron McLean in the same tent were retired NHL hockey players Marty McSorley, Georges Laraque and former NHL goal tender and GP Hockey legend Clint Malarchuk. The celebration of minor hockey consisted of a breakfast and a game of shinny at Muskoseepi Park acknowledging the first well organized minor hockey program at Two Rinks on the Bear Creek Flats: a program that began more than half a century ago. Bear Creek Flats Hockey produced a number of professional players but more importantly it was a major source of recreation for hundreds of young people over the years. Earlier a coach’s appreciation event was conducted in the Legends Lounge with Clint Malarchuk as guest speaker.

Local sports heroes that were recognized included Clint Malarchuk, Darren McAusland, Pete Wright, Johnny MacMillan, Vicky Sunohara, Doug Rigler, Willy deWit and Kelly Sutherland. The program was made possible by a dedicated committee of local volunteers. Kirsten Maher and Cam Nichol provided leadership. They worked tirelessly for months coordinating the efforts of ten neighbourhood associations who supported the event. Not unlike countless communities throughout Canada, Grande Prairie has a rich and extensive hockey history. These programs are the fountainhead and backbone of the NHL. It is therefore fitting that minor league hockey programs throughout Canada staffed largely by volunteers are recognized by the NHL.

Stan Neufeld

Clint Malarchuk Homecoming

Grande Prairie’s 23rd Hockey Legend

In October of this year Clint returned to his hometown for a second homecoming and was reminded of his colourful story and the support he enjoys in his childhood home. It was a homecoming like no other in which he was smothered by family and friends including his Uncle Max Henning now 91 years old. Clint acknowledged the powerful, positive role that his family and friends in Grande Prairie have played in his life. In this same spirit Grande Prairie is eager to recognize the remarkable contribution that Clint continues to make to people in all walks of life who struggle with mental health issues. Clint is a man who has turned adversity in his life to his own advantage and in the process to the advantage of countless others – what a life! Grande Prairie is proud to recognize Clint Malarchuk as a native son. He joined his Uncle Max on Grande Prairie’s Hockey Hall of Fame on Oct. 3, 2015. Clint Malarchuk, Grande Prairie’s 23rd Hockey Legend.

See the feature on Clint’s Induction