His Hockey History and the Tale of Two Cities
When Galen was six, the Grande Prairie Memorial Arena was familiar turf. His Dad was manager of the arena and Galen all but lived there. The arena was the context for epic battles between the Grande Prairie Athletics and rivals such as the Hythe Mustangs and the Ft. St. John Flyers. However at age six it was not the battles on the ice that captured Galen’s imagination, it was the rink rats.
As soon as he was strong enough to push a scraper, he joined the prestigious Grande Prairie Memorial Arena rink rat fraternity. It was in the atmosphere of the Memorial Arena in Grande Prairie where Galen developed his basic skating and hockey skills but it was not organized hockey.
Galen Head was one of the first rink rats at the Memorial Arena. Stan Neufeld photo collection
Galen learned his hockey at Bear Creek Flats. Photo courtesy Lorne Radbourne
Galen Head was the poster boy for Minor Hockey in the 1960’s. Stan Neufeld photo collection
At age sixteen Galen was recruited to play for the senior Grande Prairie Athletics (the As). Playing with and against mature men in the South Peace Hockey League his playing ability was raised to another level.
Grande Prairie Athletics-1964. Back row from left: Galen Head, John Benson, Charlie Turner, Garth Roberts, Ken Head, Pat Gouchie. Middle row from left: Tommy Hamilton, trainer, Barry Phillips, manager, Brian McCurdy, Herb Cowpar, Blair Jeffery, Gary Nellis, Doug Cooke, stick boy, Cliff Rigler, equipment manager. Front row from left: Walt Schultz, G. Scudalerro, Danny Muloin, Pete Wright, coach, Fred Hesse, Len Iles. Missing Gerry Esche, Bob Neufeld, Stan Neufeld. Stan Neufeld photo collection
Galen Head was one of five South Peace Hockey League Allstars representing the Grande Prairie Athletics. From left: Pete Wright, first all-star team and Athletics most valuable player, Len Iles, third team goaltender, Galen Head, rookie of the year, Fred Hesse, third team winger, Ken Head, third team winger. Stan Neufeld photo collection
Galen Head - Rookie of the Year. Stan Neufeld photo file
Edmonton Oil Kings. Stan Neufeld photo collection
Johnstown Jets. Stan Neufeld photo collection
There is something prophetic about this incident as later that year Universal Studios filmed the movie Slap Shot in Johnstown. Galen was captain of the team that inspired the movie, games were filmed in the Johnstown Memorial Arena and the infamous Hanson brothers were members of the 1976 Jets squad. Galen’s wife, Gracie played Pam, one of the player’s wives, and she reports that she still receives a cheque every time the movie is played on TV.
According to a Johnstown sports historian, “Head’s 308 goals rank third all-time in Johnstown history and his 601 points rank fourth. He also had 293 assists, sixth all-time. For eight seasons and 561 games # 8 was the Johnstown number one ambassador on the ice. Galen Head, the prolific scorer, team leader, gentleman, and all-around good guy, represented the Jets as a star player, team captain, and player coach.”
During his retirement Galen organized a high school hockey program that won several state championship competitions, he was a volunteer coach with the Jets and he and his wife established a hockey scholarship program to commemorate the life of their son who was killed in an automobile accident. In 2003 Galen’s #8 jersey was retired and he was inducted into the Johnstown Hockey Hall of Fame and the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame.
Gerald Head accepting plaque for his brother Galen at the 2010 Induction Ceremony. Photo by Stan Neufeld
Grande Prairie Hockey Legends is researched, written and presented by Stan and Ron Neufeld