By Lethbridge Herald on May 16, 2017.
A ‘Good Sport’ column by Dylan Purcell
I saw Dennis Connolly first at Nicholas Sheran Arena. He was a bit overdressed for a University of Lethbridge Pronghorn women’s hockey game. He sat for a period, then stood for two.
I met Connolly at a banquet. Back in the day, raising money was a priority for the U of L athletics department and they held an awards banquet complete with silent and live auctions. Connolly and I sat at the same table, thanks to our patron, Knud Petersen. It was a raucous affair, and between the soft, close-talking Petersen and the 50-years-gone Wagga Wagga, New South Welsh accent of Connolly, I had no idea who he was.
I knew he supported Pronghorn Athletics. He spent some coin at the banquet. I was trying to snag a cheap photo of a flower while Connolly was bidding on a day’s work from a Pronghorn team. I was searching for a deal on a soccer camp while Connolly was lifting his arm whenever an auctioneer winked at him.
“Who is that?” my wife asked at Year Two of those banquets.
“A friend of Knuddie’s. I think he works at the uni. He goes to every fricking game. They’re breaking his heart.”
See, Connolly is getting a Doctor of Laws from the school he’s called home for 50 years. The New South Wales product got stuck in an Alberta snowstorm and decided to stick around. He’s the only employee still at the school, from its start to now.
In that time, he’s added countless Pronghorn schedules to the ends of exams and has had his heart lifted and broken by countless Horns teams.
As I came to know Dennis a bit, I saw this happen period by period, goal by goal.
When it’s good, his arms raise up and that oddly accented voice yells from the back of its throat. When it’s bad, he splays his fingers out on the corner glass and goes silent except for an occasional “I think we need one here.”
What drives Connolly, an accounting and numbers guy, to support the Horns is a simple appreciation for their athleticism. He’s been a big booster of the women’s hockey program, finding a niche there, with some of his favourite students playing for the team.
I think he also just likes the atmosphere. The team’s struggles are his, their successes, too. They are small enough to be grateful for his backing and he knows it helps.
He’s told me a few times that he figured Lethbridge would be home for a few years and then somewhere else. Where doesn’t matter to him, only the people and the situation. Lethbridge has provided him great friends and afforded him the chance to do great work. Tens of thousands of students have been taught by Dennis Connolly for the last 50 years, and he’s helped even more.
He’s one of the university’s best-kept secrets. He hides down there by the corner glass, cheering, hoping and supporting.
Congratulations on 50 years, Dennis, thanks for everything.
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