By CLINT DUNFORD Former Lethbridge MLA on December 30, 2020.
I grew up in Portreeve, Sask., a village 77 miles northwest of Swift Current.
The actual hockey games began for me at about 11 years old. We were not much, and I do not remember scoring or winning very often. But boy, was it ever fun, especially the bodychecking.
The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool was a treasured institution out home in the mid-1950s. They had a dream scheme. If farmers agreed to store wheat and pay them for storage for five years, they would build a structure to store the wheat. After five years the wheat would be delivered to the elevator and the structure could be converted to an indoor ice arena.
I had a couple of seasons in senior hockey at left wing with the Abbey Eagles. I scored a few goals but my claim to fame was running goalies. I did not have much skill, so I made up for it in intensity, anger and in being a chippy player. I was that guy that the home fans loved but I was hated everywhere else. I always wanted to wear jersey #13.
It has always puzzled me how my personality changed so much as I entered the dressing room. For three or four hours I was a holy terror with that equipment on. Take it off and I was “nice as pie, wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
My next hockey adventure was at the University of Calgary or rather the University of Alberta at Calgary (UAC). I made the team as the seventh defenceman. So, you know how much ice time I got.
My next experiences were in a so-called beer league in Calgary. Our games were played Sunday mornings at about 9 or 9:30. It was tough hockey, and I was back in my element.
Oldtimers’ hockey began in 1978 for me here in Lethbridge. I had so much fun. I got to play hockey at decent times, and usually had time in club games to think about what I was doing out there on the ice. But, oh, those tournaments.
My career was doing double duty as well. Besides oldtimers, I also played for Chappie’s Ranch Hands, one of these teams that played virtually pickup hockey sometimes without referees. Teams liked to play us because we were out for the fun and then to party later. With the Ranch Hands, you not only had to be able to drink beer but to dance and to sing. The ringleader was Don Chapman, an enthusiastic but marginal hockey player but one of the best honky-tonk piano players I ever heard.
My skills were much better in baseball, but my heart was in hockey. As marginal as my hockey career was, it still is satisfying for me to reminisce and lie just a little.
This is an except from M. Gordon Hunter’s book, “The Older I Get The Better I Was,” which features hockey experiences as related by an assortment of local citizens. The book is available at Analog Books, 322 6 St. S., phone 403-942-7403 or visit analogbooks.net.