COACHING HOCKEY WAS HIS DESTINY
A True Grande Prairian
If anyone deserves a key to the city of Grande Prairie it is Lorne Radbourne. Born and raised in Grande Prairie, he graduated from its public schools, played through the ranks of minor hockey and began coaching at age sixteen. He left his hometown for a few years to obtain a B.Ed. and later an M.Ed. An opportunity arose to pursue a coaching career in British Columbia, like a carrier pigeon drawn to its home base, Lorne was resolved to remain in his hometown. Coaching, according to Lorne, is a defining characteristic of his teaching, leadership in education and his service in local politics. Additionally he assumed leadership roles in the local United Church and in the Rotary Club. Lorne and his brother, Darrell, represent the second of three generations of Radbourne’s who have provided exemplary service to their community.
Hockey became a passion for Lorne and his younger brother Darrell. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
The Radbourne family-Lorne, Darrell, Irma and Ernie. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Early Years and Learning the Game
Among Lorne’s earliest memories of engaging in a sports activity was skating with his best friend George Repka Jr. on the Repka backyard rink. “We were best buds and played a lot of hockey together. What a way to learn something new and to just play for fun! This was where my love of hockey really started.” George’s dad, George Sr. was mayor of Grande Prairie at the time and the Repkas “were like second parents to me.”
Lorne started playing competitive hockey in 1960 when the Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association was established under the direction of volunteers including Roy Peterson and his dad, Ernie.
The two rinks at Bear Creek flats served as real building blocks for our community. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Peewee Black Hawks : Back Row from left: Darby Corrigan, Eddie Eldridge, Rodney Fredrickson, George Eldridge (Coach), Tommy Belford. Front Row from left, Nick Moolyk, George Repka, Ray Taylor, Lorne Radbourne, Bill McLandress. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Reminiscing about the Two Rinks, Lorne recalls that four to eight teams shared two long change rooms. “We lost a lot of equipment there in the confusion. We all tried to stay warm. Parents and players were responsible for scraping the ice prior to our game and the teams that followed did the same.” Lorne contends that the direct and regular involvement of parents in maintaining the hockey facility served to unite hockey families in the town. “There were few examples of parents dropping off their kids at the rink. It was a real community effort. The development and operation of Two Rinks was a real building block for our community. It was a gathering place and provided important recreation for kids at a time when there was little else to do.” Lorne also played some basketball and baseball but hockey was always his primary interest. Known by his nickname, Rad, he played through all the levels of minor hockey although he did not play junior or senior hockey because he headed off to university. He then turned his attention to coaching and kids.
The Teenage Coach
It is worth noting that while Lorne was still playing minor hockey his aptitude for coaching was obvious. Reflecting on his early introduction to coaching Lorne wonders why. “I was a 16 year old kid and my younger brother Darrell’s coach, Ken Widdifield simply asked me if I was interested in helping out. It is a good reminder that people like to be asked. One might add – “and the rest is history.”
Grande Prairie Kinsmen minor hockey team: Back row: coaches Ken Widdifield in middle and Lorne Radbourne on right. Middle row: Darrell Radbourne, far left , and Randy Peterson , far right. If anyone can help us identify the remaining players please contact us. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Minor Hockey: Special Memories
The 1966/67 season the Knights of Columbus regional hockey playoffs took place in Fairview and Lorne played with the Grande Prairie Midget Knights. In a game that determined winners of the regional crown the Knights defeated the Fairview Elks and concluded the tournament with high hopes as they moved on to compete in the provincial tournament to take place in Grande Prairie. It was a big five-day event that would determine the Midget B Champions of Alberta in the Knight’s hometown. The Daily Herald Tribune hailed the Knights as “The cream of the teenage hockey crop.” Members of the team included Larry Auger, Terry Bangen, Lyman Haakstad, Lorne Radbourne and Don Moon. John Benson was the coach and Lorne’s father Ernie Radbourne was manager of the team. In a team picture the back up goalie, Rick Eager is seen without a uniform.
Grande Prairie Midget Knights - 1966/67. Back row from left: Ernie Radbourne, manager, Lorne Radbourne, Danny Ireland, Terry Bangen, Doug Crowell, Brian Leathem, Lyman Haakstad, Dave Gabler, Greg Purvis, Donny Belcourt, coach John Benson. Front row from left: Garry Mitchell, Joe Palmu, Don Little, Don Moon, Mike Fedyna, Bruce Bearisto, Larry Auger , Rick Eager . Stan Neufeld photo collection
Lorne played centre on a line known as the BAR line (Bangen, Auger and Rad). They were a feared trio. In the semi-final game of the tournament, Olds vs Grande Prairie Rad, was instrumental in defeating the opponents with an overtime goal.
Lorne Radbourne scoring the winning overtime goal. Submitted photo
University: BEd. MEd. and Unofficial Coaching Degree
Lorne was a product of the Grande Prairie Public School system. He graduated from the old Grande Prairie High School as the outstanding male athlete. Intent on becoming a teacher he enrolled in the Grande Prairie Regional College’s one-year program before moving to Edmonton to obtain teaching credentials from the University of Alberta. There he was reunited with George Repka, his childhood buddy and they roomed together. George played hockey for the U of A Golden Bears – the powerhouse of Canadian University Hockey coached by legendary Clare Drake. Lorne did not play hockey at U of A but according to Lorne, “George pulled me along with him.
Evidence suggests that Lorne was a willing - even eager captive. He attended every home game the Bears played and their practices. Lorne recognized that he could learn a great deal about coaching from a master of the craft – Clare Drake. Clare had a sparkling reputation. Not surprisingly Clare took note of Repka’s eager young friend, was obviously impressed by what he saw and spent time with him. Like a sponge Lorne absorbed what he witnessed and heard. It was a program of study for which Lorne paid no tuition. “I watched, I learned, put down drills, talked lots with George and even got to spend time with Clare himself,” reports Lorne. Lorne describes Clare as his mentor and role model. He graduated from U of A with a B. Ed. degree and an unofficial credential in coaching. Later returning to Grande Prairie he began his career as an educator working with kids and in 1987 he obtained an M.Ed. from U of A.
In his late twenties Lorne was recruited for a coaching position in BC’s Junior Hockey League. It was a crossroad that tested his decision to teach and give back to the community that had nurtured him into adulthood. Coaching at that level of the game and perhaps beyond is glamorous, prestigious and exciting in many ways – positions available to a select few. Lorne reports that it was an invitation he pondered briefly but in retrospect he feels no regrets about the path he chose. However, the very invitation to coach junior A hockey bears witness to the reputation he had earned as a potential coach at a high level in the game he loves. “I really believe that I didn’t pursue this opportunity because of my love for teaching,” recalls Lorne. Choosing teaching over hockey as a career did not diminish his love for the game - coaching hockey became his avocation. In the words of Jesse Stuart, the teacher, school administrator and writer from the mountains of Kentucky, coaching for Lorne was “The Thread That Ran So True”. It connected the principal passions in his life: family, teaching, school leadership and local politics.
Upon returning home Lorne married his fiancé Donna . Both had careers in service professions - Donna in nursing with the Regional Health Authority and Lorne as an educator in the public school system. Together they raised their two children, Dean and Laura.
Lorne’s grandson, Hastings, recently played in a hockey game in Fairview. Rad, the dutiful and proud grandfather was there to watch and cheer. On the Fairview arena walls Papa Lorne was pleased to show his grandson a picture taken a generation earlier – a picture that included him and the tournament championship Peewee team which he coached.
In an interview when he announced his decision to retire in 2006 after a successful career as a teacher and administrator in Grande Prairie’s public school system Lorne told reporter Debi Rhul, “It has been thirty-five years and an awesome career. I’ve had an amazing run as an educator.” His first teaching assignment was at Swanavon Elementary School. In that era there were few male elementary teachers in the classroom. It was a valuable experience for Lorne but more importantly for the students in his classes.
Lorne’s leadership capabilities were immediately apparent when he was chosen as Vice Principal at the school following his third year of teaching. It was the first step in his steady ascent to the top leadership position as Superintendent of the GPPSD. He moved through every step of the system – student, teacher, vice-principal, principal, deputy superintendent and than superintendent. His was a thorough immersion into the public school system from which he had graduated.
GPPSD School Administrator
For thirty-five years Lorne was an important cog in the GPPSD machine . He spent his entire career in the District – the final eleven years as Superintendent. During an interview with Debi Ruhl an emotional Radbourne stated, “It was a difficult decision to retire but I’m quite at peace with it. … I’ve had an amazing run as an educator. Opportunities and challenges have been constant throughout, but most of my work has been extremely rewarding. What I’m going to miss most is seeing students learn and excel on a first hand basis whether it is in academics, music, sports or service. I’ll also miss the friends and colleagues that I won’t see on a regular basis.”
John Lehners, School Board Chair reported that replacing him would be a daunting task. “Lorne has quite a legacy here with his impact on kids and with his leadership in the district. He is a real passionate people person and in today’s world that’s hard to find. He’s a bright individual who cares. Those are big shoes to fill. I know his footsteps will be around for quite some time.” When Lorne stepped into the role of Superintendent in 1995, reporter Don Moon, wrote, “Whether it is hockey or running a school district Lorne Radbourne likes the team approach.” That leads us to his legacy in coaching hockey.
Coaching Hockey: An Avocation
Returning home from University, Lorne did not immediately coach. “No one asked nor did I express any interest in coaching.” His absence from coaching only lasted one year. High school basketball was Lorne’s first coaching assignment upon returning home. While on staff at Swanavon School, a colleague Len Luders, school administrator at the Composite High School, invited Lorne to coach basketball with him. Luders coached the senior boys team and asked Lorne to coach the junior team. Coaching basketball served as a primer for Lorne to turn his attention to his favourite sport – hockey.
For a number of years Lorne coached Grande Prairie’s rep hockey teams including Pee Wee Dukes with Greg Jeglum and the Bantam Elks and Midget Knights with Marv Bird.
Bantam Elks -1982-83 : Front row from left: Lee Wiebe, Morgan Hall, Glenn Penner, Heath Macdonald, Wilson Gemmill, Gord Chrenek, Darren Krause, Norman Boulet, Brian Arcand. Back row from left: Lee McLandress, Lorne Radbourne, coach, Kelly Mahon, Jamie Walker, Clay Russell, Steve Webster, Jimmy Morrison, Bruce Shopik, Darren Gouchie, Ian Young, Marv Bird, coach. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
In 1973 Lorne was celebrated as the youngest person ever to receive the annual Association of Commercial Travellers (ACT) Sportsman of the Year award for his achievements in the coaching field . Lorne was following in the footsteps of Legends Roy Peterson, Ken Head and Bob Neufeld who had won the award in previous years.
Lorne and the Frank Smith Memorial ACT Award. Submitted photo
Grande Prairie North Stars : Back row from left: Darrell Radbourne, Rick Paterson, Neil McKay, Grant Menzies, Ron Head, Wayne Craipley. Middle row from left : Jim Seath, Lorne Radbourne, coach, Keith Peterson, Jim Slipp, Curtis Crough, Randy Repka, Jack Rycroft, Randy Weller, Ken Ness, Garnet Sallows, manager. Front row from left: Lloyd Bradley, Gord Head, Ron Jones, Dave Schmitke, Brian Sallows, Brad Beaupre, Randy Peterson. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Grande Prairie North Stars 1974-75. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Lorne contends that he reached the apex of his coaching ability during this time and was in a position to share his knowledge and ability with others. He was a Level Three coach and that is no mean accomplishment. The training manual for Level Three coaching is a 123 page document including topics such as growth and development, motivating players, strength and conditioning exercises and of course – how the game should be played. Lorne spent several years as a Coaching Clinic Instructor for Hockey Alberta conducting clinics in Fairview, Peace River, Hines Creek and in his home town. From time to time he worked with Ken Head and Pete Wright and was founder of a summer hockey school that he ran for a few years.
Bob Wallace served as a referee when Lorne was coaching and they were friends as Rotarians. Bob reinforced the importance of respecting others in the game including officials. Lorne points out the practical reason for respecting officials. Refs are, after all human. It is short sighted for a player to offend an official. That official may have a lapse of objectivity and the player could find himself/herself on the wrong side of the next call. However, more important to Lorne than winning was fairness and showing respect for others. He remembers with great satisfaction that as a coach his Peewee team won the Rotary sponsored Fair Play Award for two consecutive years.
After coaching the North Stars Lorne took a break. He had moved from teaching into school administration. In a central office administrative position he missed direct contact with kids. More importantly his eldest son Dean, at age five began playing house league hockey in Grande Prairie’s Minor Hockey program. Inevitably when Dean began playing Lorne was once again motivated to coach. “ Coaching Dean gave me my fix for working directly with kids.”In swift succession he accompanied Dean on the path he had followed as a kid.
Grande Prairie Dragon Palace Pee Wees 1990-91. Back row from left: Larry Smith, coach, Fraser Galipeau, Mike Campbell, Nathan Smith, Sonny Sekhon, Delaney Hodgson, Lorne Radbourne, coach. Front row from left: Dean Radbourne, Riley Dombrova, Lorne Kimble, Ronald Wong, Derek Lalonde. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
An important step in gathering information for Lorne’s story was to interview people that know him. Lorne is so well known in hockey circles that we might well have been blindfolded, spun around and from the crowd in a packed GP hockey arena randomly selected a fan and obtained helpful information regarding Lorne - he is that well known in hockey circles. However, we were somewhat more circumspect in selecting persons to interview.
Darrell: Recollections of a Younger Brother
Lorne first coached his kid brother (six years younger) when he played baseball with the Disney Brothers Cutters. Later he coached Darrell when he played junior hockey with the North Stars. Darrell admired and looked up to his older brother. Following games they would often hold “end-of-the-bed discussions”. However, Darrell stated, “We had our moments. Like the time I threw a hammer at Lorne and when he slammed my fingers in a door.” Looking in a rear view mirror Darrell recognizes that at such a young age and with such limited experience, Lorne was “ahead of the curve – always a teacher and beyond his years as a coach.” Darrell recalls that Lorne would become completely absorbed in their games as he paced back and forth on the bench. During a game in Prince George while pacing he disappeared. He had walked off the bench. There were a few tense moments before he popped up and resumed his pacing. Darrell reports that at this time Lorne was boisterous and enthusiastic. This stands in contrast to Lorne’s calm demeanour on the bench in later years.
As a college student in Grande Prairie before leaving for U of A in Edmonton, Lorne played basketball for the college. “He would invite me to sit on the bench with him – that was cool.” Lorne also invited his younger brother to visit him in Edmonton when he was at U of A. “Although Lorne was pretty straight laced and not a partier during his first year he got somewhat caught up in the social life.” , remembers Darrell. They had a pact not to tell Mom and Dad.
Insights From Dean - Lorne’s Son
Our interview with Dean was especially refreshing. It indicates a healthy open relationship between father and son. Lorne’s return to coaching hockey after his second (shall we call it a “sabbatical?”) was an incident waiting to happen. His son’s decision to play Lorne’s favourite sport was the trigger. Dean reports that his Dad coached him from novice through bantam. Little did Dean know what a gift this was not just to his son in terms of the superior coaching he received but in terms of benefits to the greater hockey community. It also enriched Lorne’s life. Dean’s comments support earlier observations that coaching was a thread that connected all aspects of his life – family, career and of course, sports. “At his very core - in everything he does Dad approaches it as a coach.” (However Dean’s account of Lorne’s style by the time he was coaching his son indicates changes from an earlier time when he was coaching his younger brother. The image Dean conveys as his son’s coach is not a pacer who fell from the bench but a calm, controlled presence. That does not suggest he was any less competitive. One is left with the impression that there was the same intensity inside masked by a mellow exterior. “People are often surprised to find out how competitive Dad actually is.” stated Dean, “It surfaced in different ways.”
Another Lorne characteristic noted by Dean was his father’s pursuit of excellence in all things. Dean recalls that driving home following a game was not always comfortable especially when Dean had not been giving his all. Sometimes Lorne would address his concerns obliquely. For example, on one drive home Lorne commented, “I think you think you’re skating quickly.” Lorne was telling Dean in an indirect way that he was too slow. There may have been some uncomfortable moments but reflecting on their time together Dean deeply appreciates the example set by his Dad. “ I would never have it any other way. It instilled in me a love for coaching well beyond my playing capabilities because I was never going to have those opportunities as a player. I too love coaching because of growing up in that environment.”
It takes an astute observer of human behaviour to determine the limits of one’s natural ability. Lorne expected his players do their best within the boundaries of what he deemed to be their potential. In hockey jargon – he expected his players to leave everything on the ice. While winning was important to Lorne it was not to be at the expense of fair play. Fair Play “encourages every player to be as competitive as possible, and to win as many games as possible, but within the rules. It teaches the player those aspects that will enhance hockey ability and team play”. Lorne coached Dean in the Peewee Recreation league and for two years they won the Play Fair Team Award of the Year. In Lorne’s opinion it was the highest honour his team could earn. “It meant that the team had embraced Dad’s ideologies.”
Having retreated from the bench Lorne now closely follows the various activities of his five grandchildren. Dean reports that he regularly goes to Edmonton to watch Lennox and Lyla, his sister Laura’s children. Lennox plays baseball, basketball and hockey while Lyla is a dancer. Dean’s children are Hastings, Adelaide and Ellington. Hastings plays hockey, football and basketball while Adelaide plays ringette and Ellington is in his first year of hockey.
Continuing a Radbourne tradition, Dean is now coaching his son Hastings. In the stands whenever possible is a proud and protective grandpa - Lorne. Once again there seems to be a shift from the way Lorne coached Dean and the manner in which he sees Dean coaching his grandson. He has been known to come down from the stands while Dean is coaching and advise his son that he is being too hard on his son Hastings. “Are you kidding me? This guy who coached me as a kid and insisted I leave everything on the ice now says I should expect less from his grandson!!!” . Dean reported that his Dad occasionally suggested other adjustments that he should consider making. It was an interesting evolution in Lorne’s perspective. Perhaps we should label it “a Grandfather’s attitude adjustment”. Dean also reported that although Lorne was not their coach he established close relations with Hasting’s teammates. “He made lasting connections with those kids. They still ask how my Dad is doing. He loves to be involved with young people.”
Don Moon: Minor Hockey League Teammate & DHT Sports Reporter
Lorne and Don Moon played hockey together as Midgets (under 18). As noted earlier Don reports that he was smart and a good playmaker. Don later became a sports reporter with the Daily Herald Tribune when Lorne was coaching the North Stars and Don covered the games. He took note of Lorne’s intelligence as a coach and his dedication to the players. On the eve prior to a North Star game Don could count on a visit from Lorne. He was there to speak with Don about the next game planting seeds for an article about his players in the next edition of the newspaper to ensure something was written about his players. It was never about him. He liked to see his players acknowledged.” Don went on to say, “On the bench or in an interview he never showed any anger. He was always level headed.”
Doug Rigler: Player Remembers his Coach
Lorne coached GP Hockey Legend Doug Rigler when he was a Peewee. Regarding
his coaching style Doug said, “ Lorne was about taking care of details – play the game right – use skill – play with class and if you do things right everything will work out as it should. He was intense and expected everyone to do their best but if you stepped out of line you received an icy look and may have sat out a shift or two. However, he was always fair and caring about his players.” Doug retired from playing the game and now makes his home in Fort Wayne Indiana where he has turned his attention to coaching following his hockey career as a player with the Fort Wayne Komets. One of his players once asked him why he was so fanatical about the details of the game. Doug replied, “When I played peewee hockey I was coached by a man named Lorne Radbourne. Lorne told us if we work hard at the details and prepare to the best of our ability we are not likely to lose. If we do get beat we as a team handle it with class and work hard not to let it happen again.”
GP Legion PeeWee Dukes 1973: Back Row from left: Lorne Radbourne ,coach, Steven Belyan, Murray Bird, Gary Schaal, Darin Haughian, Gary Soroka, Rob Taylor, Daryl Leatham, Bob Leslie, Greg Jeglum, coach. Front Row from left:- Gary Badger, Wade Bradley, Wayne Kenefick, Gerald Belyan, Bruce Gerry, Doug Rigler, Tim Murray, Blake George, Jim Chrenek, Alan Czubey. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Marv Bird: Fellow Coach and Legend
GP Hockey Legend Marv Bird and Lorne Radbourne were alike in many ways. Both were elite coaches by any standard and both believed in fair play above all. Marv contends that Lorne was the first coach in Grande Prairie to attend coaching clinics. He recalls that they attended coaching clinics together including the Tam O'Shanter Coaching Symposium in Belleville, Ontario in 1975 and again in 1976. Instructors included NHL coaches Roger Neilson, Fred Shero and several coaches from Europe.
Back at home they often coached together, not just hockey but baseball as well. Marv recalls, “We co-coached the Disney Brothers Cutters Pee Wee Minor Baseball team. I remember coaching his Disney Brothers Cutters Peewee Baseball team in the Provincial Playoffs when Lorne was attending a coaching clinic.” Hockey, however was their first love. “ In 1976/77 we coached the Midget Knights together. Doug Rigler and Ken Solheim were both on that team.” . Imagine as a minor hockey player having the benefit of exposure to the co-coaching of Lorne and Marv - the best one could get. It is small wonder that Doug and Ken advanced to play professionally. More importantly, think of the character development, leadership skills, team spirit and fair play principles that all of their young players learned. The benefits are incalculable.
Midget Knights- 1976 : Back row from left: Bob Leslie, Wade Bradley, Gary Soroka, Ken Solheim, Doug Rigler, Ron Green. Middle row from left: Frank Piepers, Gary Schaal, Weldon Wilson, Kevin Pringnitz, Rob Taylor, Chris Reynolds. Front row from left: Norman Duplessis, Martin Walker, Marv Bird, coach, Darin Haugian, Lorne Radbourne, coach, Murray Bird, Mark Shores. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Grant Menzies: Legend and Former Player
“When I reminisce about Lorne, only positive memories pop into my mind and it gave me a reason to realize the huge impact he had on my life as a young man. Lorne was an extremely dedicated hockey coach, a valuable youth mentor, a committed educator and an exceptional community supporter!
During my formative years in Junior Hockey, my outlook on how one should treat others and how one should give back to the community was formed through Lorne’s guidance. His calm presence in the dressing room and on the bench, yet fiery competitiveness, gave him respect from everyone involved. The players, coaches on both sides, referees and fans in every building admired how coach Radbourne carried himself. He brought the caliber of everyone’s game to a higher level and went about it in a classy, dignified fashion.
Lorne Radbourne’s induction into the Grande Prairie Hockey Legends is a very fitting tribute to one of Grande Prairie’s finest! I am truly honoured that Lorne was my Junior Hockey coach but more importantly that he became a lifelong friend and someone I will always admire!!”
The Visionary – Leadership in Hockey Beyond Coaching
For a number of years Lorne was on the Board of the GPAC – a group that oversees elite hockey teams in Grande Prairie. His son Dean was also on the Board and eventually became its President. Lorne and Lorna Leblanc , executive director of the Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association, authored a manual for players and parents that set forth expectations and protocols to follow when dealing with problems.
As Chair of the GP Storm Coach Selection and Recruitment Committee, Lorne moderated interviews and assisted in the selection of a coach. His knowledge of and experience in developing profiles and framing questions while he was an administrator in the GPPSD was invaluable. It was the process used in the hiring of Storm coach Mike Vandekamp.
As a Junior A Storm Board member Lorne’s major responsibility was to provide leadership for their Scholarship program. He organized SAT testing - supervised the nomination of Storm players for AJHL scholarships and was the liaison for the scholarship fund provided through the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta. Funds bequeathed by Brian Nash when he passed away were also used to provide scholarships for Storm players. It was another opportunity to work with his
brother Darrell. It was a challenging period as the team was not very competitive thus sponsors and the fan base shrank to the point where it was difficult to keep the team afloat.
The Alberta Cup involves draft eligible Bantam players from eight regional teams throughout Alberta. Chosen players are scouted to compete for WHL draft positions. An added benefit for Lorne in serving on this committee was the opportunity it provided to work again with son Dean who chaired the organizing committee.
Every Kid – Every Community is a grant program launched in 2011 by Hockey Alberta to provide a gateway for any child in Alberta who is interested in playing hockey to participate in the game, have fun and in many cases experience the sport for the first time. The grant program is funded by the Hockey Alberta Foundation. Lorne joined the Hockey Alberta Foundation Board as a result of a call from Dennis Zukiwsky, a U of A teammate of George Repka, Lorne’s childhood friend who was tragically killed in a car accident.
His involvement with the Hockey Alberta Foundation convinced Lorne that a “Try Hockey” program should be started in Grande Prairie. He thus convened a meeting with and received enthusiastic support from Grande Prairie’s hockey community including representatives from the Grande Peace Athletic Club, the Peace Female Athletic Club, the Junior A Storm and most importantly the Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association.
The TRY HOCKEY program evolved into FIRST SHIFT, a program offered through Hockey Canada in partnership now with Bauer Canada, the NHL and the NHLPA. Lorne became chair of the local organizing committee and has continued in this role for several years. The program is offered each hockey season to boys and girls aged 6-12 who have never played organized hockey. Volunteer coaches lead participants in structured on-ice sessions focussing on fun and skill development. Six sessions are held in October/November and another six sessions in January/February for 45 of the community’s youth. Each year the program is filled to capacity within two weeks of open registrations on a first come first served basis. Participants receive full equipment so they can then transition to organized minor hockey, stick and puck hockey, pond hockey or even ringette if they so choose.
Approximately 250 youth so far have been provided this opportunity to try hockey through the FIRST SHIFT program in Grande Prairie over the last 5 years. Close to two-thirds of participants have continued on and registered in minor hockey.
Lorne summarizes his resume of hockey related initiatives with the message, “We are becoming increasingly culturally diverse with many kids who have never had a chance and/or means to try hockey and cost is a huge impediment.” Although Lorne is no longer coaching hockey he continues his involvement with the Hockey Alberta Foundation. “It gives me an ongoing opportunity to share my love of hockey.” Lorne’s principal recreation today is spectator and chauffeur. Of utmost importance to him is serving as a driver for his grandson Hastings. Lorne is a Storm season ticket holder, regularly watches their games and cheers them on. It is a special privilege to watch his grandchildren participate in a range of sports acknowledging that he continues to watch with the eye of a coach. As a grandparent he states he has to discipline himself to be positive. At times he finds himself sneaking in suggestions – he is ever the coach.
Driving his grandson Hastings to and from games reminds him of similar times with his son Dean. “It’s not just the time at practice or at the game, it’s conversations in the car time - when we talked about life and hockey. Now I’m able to do that with my grandson. He has just graduated from peewee hockey and has the option of playing hit or no hit Bantam hockey. I applaud Hockey Alberta and the GPMHA for creating options of this nature. It will keep more kids playing the game.” What’s more Lorne reports that family history is repeating itself. His grandson Hastings at age thirteen has been introduced to coaching when during the Spring he helps coach pee wee football. He has now added referee to his list of credentials.
Hastings, his dad looking on, has another new position- a referee. Photo courtesy Dean Radbourne
Radbourne family. Photo courtesy Radbourne family
Social, cultural, and economic changes of tidal proportions took place during Lorne’s era and these changes have important implications for hockey. For example – pond hockey and out-of-door rinks that featured organized hockey have all but vanished.
Growing up, Lorne’s second home was on an outdoor rink
Today there are many distractions from obtaining physical exercise. When Lorne was a kid television was an unhealthy distraction for many children. Today computers and the Internet constitute an even greater challenge to exercise and direct personal engagement with hockey. Rather than playing hockey on real ice many young people are content to play the game on their computers – virtual reality it is called. It robs kids of the real thing - actual time on the ice with others. There is no substitute for the feeling of wind in your face as you glide over the ice on your skates on a pond stick in hand. There is no virtual reality - no substitute to take the place of the emotions one experiences in a dressing room between periods when a good coach delivers a stirring, motivational appeal to come back from a dismal performance in the last period - from the satisfaction you experience upon delivering a puck to a teammates’ stick and seeing him/her deposit the puck in the opposing net and whether winning or losing the game knowing you have given your all - have played the game fairly to the best of your ability and after the game received praise from the coach you admire.
If you wish to see examples of the best in coaching – don’t look to the NHL where the emphasis is on winning at any cost including the safety of the players. Look instead to your local minor hockey program – to the likes of Lorna Leblanc and her army of volunteers. Look to the men and women who coach in local minor hockey programs where it is not principally about scoring goals but about setting goals – about being a winner – not winning – about fun and fitness not financial gain. Don’t look to the NHL Brass and owners for examples of organizations who strive to make our world a better place. Look to our minor hockey associations that organize and sponsor programs such as First Shift. It is to Lorne’s credit that many of the hockey initiatives in which he was involved were a response to the economic, social, cultural and technological changes that were taking place in his era. These programs may not reach every young person that would like to play but they are moving in the right direction. Lorne sets an example for others to follow – working to improve the game and find ways to provide opportunities for every interested young person to play our national sport. Lorne is a stately, giant pine with deep roots supporting healthy branches spreading ever outward and upward.
Grande Prairie is fortunate to have a homegrown visionary of Lorne’s calibre. We are proud to welcome Lorne Radbourne as the twenty-fifth inductee into the exclusive roster of Grande Prairie Hockey Legends - Lifetime Achievement category.
Grande Prairie Hockey Legends is researched, written and presented by Stan and Ron Neufeld