Thursday, 12 July 2018 06:40

Swift Current hosts 2018 Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner

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Hayley Wickenheiser was surrounded by family and friends from Shaunavon during her induction ceremony. Hayley Wickenheiser was surrounded by family and friends from Shaunavon during her induction ceremony.

Eight new inductees were welcomed into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame (SHHOF) during the 2018 induction dinner at the Innovation Credit Union iPlex, July 7.


This was the first time since the inaugural dinner in 2012 that an induction dinner took place in Swift Current, where the SHHOF is located.
SSHOF Board of Director Co-Chair Blair Davidson said it was great to have it back in Swift Current.
“I think our goal would be to bring it back here every 10 years or so,” he told the Prairie Post. “We’re more successful here probably than most places.”
The annual induction dinner takes place in different communities to give people across the province the opportunity to celebrate hockey and to raise awareness about the SHHOF.
“The more communities we get into, the more impetus we get and the more people we have knowing about the hall,” he said.
Several of the 2018 inductees have connections to Swift Current and southwest Saskatchewan.
The two grassroots inductees are both from Swift Current. Long-time Swift Current resident Larry Johnson grew up in Moose Jaw, where he started playing hockey on the creek at the age of four.
“This is a thrill of a lifetime,” he said about the induction. “It’s very humbling, it’s so good. I don’t have enough words to say how I feel about it.”
Hockey has always been an important part of his life, whether he was playing or coaching. He continued to play the game until 60, when he retired from Oldtimers hockey.
As a younger player he won the city scoring championship, played on the city all-star team and won a city championship. He also won a Provincial A Championship with the Swift Current Indians hockey team.
“I loved to play, just the fellowship to play on the ice and competing at whatever level,” he said. “I played anywhere the coach wanted me, but centre ice was good. I played defence, but centre ice was a favourite of mine.”
He was a good skater and his puck handling skills were good, which was an advantage against bigger players.
“I wasn’t very big, so I knew how far I could push the bigger guy,” he laughed. “I loved to carry the puck, and I could skate. That’s one thing, I could skate, and in most cases I would beat the bigger guy and stay away from him. … They caught me in the corner a few times.”
He started to coach because he wanted to share his knowledge of the game with younger players. He coached a variety of male and female teams until 2015, when he retired from coaching.
Some of the players under his guidance included former Team Canada player Bobbi-Jo Slusar and former NHL player Travis Moen.
“It was a fun 40 years,” Johnson said. “I had the best young players and the parents as well were just awesome.”
He has been involved with hockey in various other roles over the years, including as a member of the Swift Current Hockey League for 20 years, and as president of the Midget Legionnaires for 15 years. He was a founding board member of the Swift Current Tournament of Champions, and was the co-founder with Slusar of the Swift Current wheelchair hockey program.
The other grassroots inductee, Dennis Loeppky, is recognized posthumously for his contribution to the game. He was a dedicated community volunteer who started selling programs in 1967 in the new Centennial Civic Centre (now the iPlex). He became a sought after timekeeper and scorekeeper in the community, and he fulfilled these duties at  Swift Current Broncos (WHL) and Swift Current Indians (SJHL) games as well as many other tournaments in the city.
Loeppky and his family also billeted junior hockey players. Last year he was inducted into the Swift Current Broncos Hall of Fame as a volunteer. He passed away in 2017.
Shaunavon's Hayley Wickenheiser was inducted into the SHHOF in the player category. She is a five-time Olympic medalist, four-time Olympic gold medalist, and seven-time world champion.
“It's a big honour,” she said about the induction. “I've received a lot of awards and accolades through my career, but this one is very special. My heart is always in Saskatchewan. I've lived in Alberta for a long time, but I am still from Saskatchewan and it's a very big part of where I started in hockey, and my roots and the value system that I have.”
Wickenheiser is considered to be one of the best female hockey players in the world, and she has made a significant impact both on the ice and through her activities off the ice to raise the profile of women’s sports around the world.
“I remember trying to get into a hockey school here in Swift Current when I was seven years old,” she recalled. “My mom called many times and they said no and finally on the last call she said ‘I think this is more of a human rights issue than it is a hockey issue’ and they let me in. So I changed in the car. My dad would put my skates on in the rink and then all the old farmers would come and be like ‘There’s a girl here’ and no one could figure out who’s the girl on the ice.”
While things have changed a lot since then, she feels there is still work to be done to open doors for women in sport.
“It’s much easier now and I think the next step is in women’s professional hockey eventually and that’s where we really need to go,” she said.
She is starting a career in medicine, but she feels hockey will always be a part of her life. She recently spent a week at a Toronto Maple Leafs development camp and she had a few conversations with Maple Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas about possibly doing some work with the team.
“I love the game,” she said. “I think I’ll always in some way be connected to the game. It’s hard to leave it once it’s in your blood, and it really has opened doors for a little girl from Shaunavon.”
Former NHL player Ron Delorme was inducted in the player category. He was born in North Battleford and grew up in Cochin. He is from Cree heritage and he became a role model for aspiring First Nations hockey players and athletes.
He was drafted by the Kansas City Scouts in 1975 and made his NHL debut in 1976 with the relocated Scouts, which became known as the Colorado Rockies.
He played for the Rockies for five seasons, and then played for the Vancouver Canucks for four seasons. He became an amateur scout with the Canucks in 1986 and he is now the team's chief amateur scout.
For Delorme it was an unbelievable feeling to be inducted into the SHHOF in the province where his career as a player started.
“I played lake hockey, going way back to when I was 10 years old,” he said. “It all started on the lake, and it’s been an unbelievable ride ever since. ... I might not have the most talent, but I always played the right way. The coaches I had, the lessons they taught me was basically hard work and determination, and that’s basically been my career, living on hard work and determination.”
During the 1972-73 season he played junior hockey in Prince Albert with the Raiders, and the following year he joined the Swift Current Broncos, where he played 59 games. He continued to play with the Broncos for another two seasons, when the team was located in Lethbridge.
“I got an invite from Stan Dunn and his Swift Current Broncos and I never looked back since,” Delorme said. “Stan Dunn was one of the best coaches I ever had.”
The other 2018 player inductee is William (Bill) Hicke of Regina, who passed away in 2005 after a long battle with cancer. He played his entire junior career with the Regina Pats between 1954-58 and he led the team to three consecutive Memorial Cup appearances. He played for various teams during a long and successful professional hockey career, including the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The other 2018 SHHOF inductees are John Kelly Lovering (posthumously) of Regina in the builder category, Lyle Wilhelm of Moose Jaw in the official category, and the 1987-88 Notre Dame Hounds in the team category.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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