A second edition of the book is now available at Analog Books in Lethbridge or on it's website, which is right here. For those out of town, they will ship it to you. The second edition includes stories from the Broncos Blog.
THE LETHBRIDGE BRONCOS:
"THE SHORT RUN"
This unauthorized history of the Lethbridge Broncos tells the story of a decade of a forgotten period of time for a WHL franchise that produced many great players. The Broncos time in Lethbridge was short, but impressive.
During the 12 seasons the Lethbridge Broncos played before returning to Swift Current, they were one of the best junior hockey franchises in Canada. This book details their beginnings, examines their highs and lows, and explores their departure in the spring of 1986.
Twenty former Bronco players including Bryan Trottier, Brent Sutter and Lindy Ruff recall their memories playing in Lethbridge.
Every season is reviewed with summaries and statistics. Biographies of every player who appeared in a Bronco uniform are also highlighted. Many team photos are included.
Just added - Brian Sutter.
Brian Sutter, Left Wing, 1974-1976
Brian arrived in Lethbridge in the fall of 1974, excited about the prospect of playing in Lethbridge. A new rink, a new coach and the opportunity to play with one of the greatest hockey players to ever play the game, Bryan Trottier, awaited. Brian would be the first of six Sutters to play for the Broncos. Over the next nine seasons the Sutter name became synonymous with the Lethbridge Broncos.
Brian left a positive impression on every player he played with. Jerry Bancks, affectionally called “Jed” by his teammates, stated “Brian had a profound impact on my life. I was inspired by his dedication and commitment to achieving success.”
“Brian worked harder than anyone else. He was extremely intense and was not intimidated by anyone. He’d go through the wall to beat you,” stated former Bronco teammate Rick Collier.
On a small farm outside of Viking, Alta., seven boys were born to Louis and Grace Sutter. Brian and his brothers became a hockey phenomenon – six brothers who made the National Hockey League. Not the most skilled players, it would be their work ethic, tenacity and commitment that contributed to their success going forward. Brian led the way.
When they weren’t helping their dad on the farm, the boys were consumed by hockey and baseball. Winter arrived early in central Alberta, and when sloughs froze in early November, they’d all be out on the ice playing. Occasionally their dad, wearing boots would join them. Louis loved the game, but never learned to skate.
The oldest brother, Gary, excelled at the game. Only a year older, Brian did everything he could to keep up with him. Both began their minor hockey playing in Viking until they both ventured to Vegreville, a small community 60 kilometres north of Viking, to play Junior B hockey. Brian was 14.
Both Brian and Gary impressed hockey scouts with their toughness, intensity and hockey skills. The Regina Pats listed Brian. “I had no interest in playing in Regina,” said Brian. Despite being on their protected list, he had no desire playing 650 km from his family and the farm he grew up on.
Brian and Gary received a letter from the Red Deer Rustlers in the summer of 1972, addressed to Gary and Brian Shooter, inviting them to their fall training camp. Brian was thrilled. When late August arrived, his dad, in the middle of harvest, headed south to Red Deer with Brian. Gary, conflicted about leaving to play junior hockey, made the decision to remain at home.
The Red Deer Rustlers were a very successful junior hockey franchise. They joined the Alberta Junior Hockey League in 1967 and quickly rose to the top, winning four league titles in five years between 1970 and 1974. When Brian arrived, a new head coach was intent on continuing the tradition of winning in Red Deer.
Cec Swanson, born in Champion, Alta., had recently moved to Red Deer from Peace River. He worked as a court clerk and sheriff when he arrived in Red Deer but his true love was hockey. In 1972 he assumed the head coaching role with the Rustlers. Swanson coached the Rebels for five seasons during the 1970s. Following his time coaching he was named president of the AJHL, a position he held from 1980 to 1985. Swanson was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. He had a tremendous influence on many players, particularly Brian.
In the fall of 1972, over 125 young players attended the Rustlers camp trying to leave an impression. Brian made it to the final 30 when he was called in to meet with Swanson. Having heard about the two kids from Viking, he wasn’t thrilled with his first impression of Brian. In the book “Six Shooters” Swanson stated “He wasn’t a very good skater but he turned out to be the only boy I called in that day who didn’t get cut. I don’t know why I didn’t cut him but there was something I liked.”
When final roster moves for the team were made, Swanson assigned Brian to a Junior B affiliate in Red Deer. According to Brian, after being released he was scared to call home as his dad had told him he’d be in the fields harvesting. So Brian stayed at the rink until it closed and then spent the night outside. When the rink opened in the morning, the women who ran the concessions let him in. When Swanson walked in, he gave Brian money for something to eat and told him the next ice time was at 8:30.
Within a week he was back with the Rustlers. As a 16-year-old in the AJHL, he scored 27 goals in 51 games. The Rustlers finished in second place in the standings and lost in the AJHL finals to the Calgary Canucks in seven games.
Swanson became very close to Brian, who described him as a “role model for life.” With a coach who believed in him and a Rustler squad ready to dominate, excitement was high as he returned for his second season.
It would be an incredible season. The Rustlers finished first in the AJHL in 1973-74 and captured the AJHL championship. Led by Brian, Terry Wittchen and second-year defenceman Doug Gillespie, the Rustlers unfortunately lost the Abbot Cup finals to Kelowna, ending their season one step short of the national championship.
Brian had a tremendous season scoring 42 goals in 59 games and his tenacity and skill impressed Western Canadian Hockey League scouts. After being dropped by the Regina Pats when he failed to show for training camp, another Saskatchewan junior team, the Swift Current Broncos, noticed and quickly listed him. When Brian heard the Broncos were moving to Lethbridge, he was thrilled about the opportunity to play closer to home.
In September 1974, Brian headed south to Lethbridge and settled into the Marquis Hotel where the Broncos stayed during training camp. “I was there to make the team,” and that he did, quickly impressing coach Earl Ingarfield with his hard-nosed style of play.
Brian was familiar with many of the players at training camp, having either played with or against during his two seasons in the AJHL.
Doug Gillespie had been with him for two seasons in Red Deer and was hoping to leave an impression. Gillespie had made the Swift Current Broncos the season before but chose to return to Red Deer. His addition to the Bronco squad was welcomed.
Brian was very familiar with Jerry Bancks, who played for the archrival Calgary Canucks. He was a tremendous offensive player. Initially released by the Broncos, he returned and scored 38 goals in only 57 games.
Darcy Regier, another rookie rearguard, became Brian’s roommate over their two seasons in Lethbridge. Both stayed with the Paskuski family before moving in with Marg and Stub Ross during their second season with the Broncos.
The Ross family became an extension of his own family for not only Brian but for his five other brothers who lived with them when they played for the Broncos. “They were our third set of grandparents,” stated Brian.
With Brian demonstrating tenacity, toughness and the ability to score, he joined another 18-year-old centre recently drafted by the New York Islanders, Bryan Trottier. Trottier described Brian as “scrappy and fearless. He could score, dig and pass the puck,” and would be his linemate through Trottier’s only season in Lethbridge.
“Trottier was a special player,” said Brian. Playing on the left side, Brian began the season among the scoring leaders in the WCHL. “He had the same values, same background and we clicked immediately,” stated Brian. “He’d become the best two-way centre in the NHL.”
The most immediate influence on Brian was his coach, who Brian referred to as “Mr. Ingarfield.” Brian stated “He was special, I had a ton of respect for him. He expected a lot. Having played in the NHL for 13 seasons, he knew what he was talking about.”
Having graduated high school in Red Deer, Brian looked for employment once he made the team. Bert and Macs, a local sporting goods store, hired him and between hockey and work, his days were filled.
When not playing, Brian loved to hang out with his teammates. “Rollie Boutin recalled how Brian was always playing pranks.”
Steve “Cowboy” Lee, a rookie on the team, had just bought a new car and while in the dressing room, Sutter and a few other teammates moved the car into the back of the Sportsplex. They parked it in a manner that made it nearly impossible to get out. When Lee found his car, the team howled in laughter over his predicament.
Brian and Bancks loved to torment rookie Archie Henderson. Henderson broke his toe chasing them around in a hotel in Flin Flon.
As the season progressed Brian was selected to play for Team Canada in the 1975 World Junior Championship being held in Winnipeg. “I was honoured to be selected but I really felt Ron Delorme should have been the one to go with Trottier,” stated Brian.
Prior to leaving for Winnipeg, Brian caught a rut on the ice and injured his groin. Not wanting to miss games he continued to play and by the time he headed to the World Juniors he was in severe pain. The trainer of the Winnipeg Jets, part of Team Canada’s training staff, created a device Brian wore, allowing him to play.
Canada finished in second place. Brian played alongside Trottier throughout the tournament and collected five points in the five games he played. Trottier would be named the MVP of Team Canada.
Returning to the Broncos, Brian continued to play despite the severe pain he faced with his groin issue. Unable to practise, his game was impacted. Named to the all-star game in Victoria, he injured his hamstring and missed 19 games during the second half of the season.
While injured, he worked closely with Bronco trainer Dick Abel, who he became close to. Brian throughout his hockey career, appreciated the work of the training staff. While negotiating his second contract with the St. Louis Blues, he insisted team bonuses include the training staff.
Returning for the playoffs, his future teammate in St. Louis, Ed Staniowski stood on his head for the Regina Pats and they defeated the Broncos in six games.
Despite only playing 53 games, many while injured, Brian scored 34 goals and collected 81 points.
Brian remembered how close the team was. Hunting trips with teammates, golfing for the first time, the many practical jokes, all served to develop close bonds with teammates that remain today. Nine members of the 1974-75 Broncos played in the NHL including three, Trottier, Molleken and Brian, who coached. In addition, Darcy Regier served as a general manager of the Buffalo Sabres from 1997 until 2013.
Brian was ready for his second season in Lethbridge. From a young age he dreamed of playing in the NHL. This would be his draft year and he wanted to have a good season. Trottier had graduated to the NHL but a highly touted rookie named Steve Tambellini arrived at training camp and Brian was excited about his skill, and perhaps the best skater in the WCHL.
Ingarfield named Brian captain of the Broncos. Honoured, Brian was committed to lead by example and to be accountable to his teammates. Brian’s motto “I and me makes us and we better.”
Earl continued to reinforce the need for Brian to be better away from the puck. He also wanted him to tone down the fighting, something Brian didn’t hesitate to engage in if he felt it would help the team. Being a top scorer, he was also needed on the ice.
Aside from Tambellini, other rookies included Willie Desjardins, Mike Boychuk, Joe Meli and Dale Yakiwchuk. With a crew of youngsters and returning veterans that included his longtime teammate Doug Gillespie and billet roommate Darcy Regier, the Broncos were hopeful for a good season.
The Broncos started strong winning five of their first six games. A trip to the West Coast in early November started a slide that resulted in several trades. Archie Henderson was sent to Victoria for defenceman Rick Peter, Bancks was traded to Calgary for Mike Fynn and other moves were made with their farm team, the Taber Golden Suns.
Following Christmas they headed west again and struggled. When they returned after losing six games in a row, Ingarfield resigned, unhappy with the direction of the team and his relationship with general manager Bill Burton.
The loss of Ingarfield was hard for Brian and the rest of his Bronco teammates who loved playing for him. Burton hired a young 27-year-old Mike Sauter from Fairlight, Sask. Sauter, a graduate of the Flin Flon Bombers, was playing in the SHL with the Hampton Gulls when he accepted the offer to coach the Broncos.
“I want my players to be aggressive. Take out the man and finish the play,” stated Sauter in the Lethbridge Herald.
Before coaching his first game, Lethbridge hosted the 1975-76 all-star game and Brian and teammate Doug Gillespie were both named to the Eastern Division first team all-stars. Darcy Regier was named to the second team and Willie Desjardins was added to the squad that lost 9-7. Up going into the third period 6-4, they gave up five unanswered. Brian scored a goal playing with Desjardins and Brandon Wheat King, Dan Bonar.
With the all-star game finished the Broncos faced the second-place Brandon Wheat Kings at the Sportsplex.
At the 36-second mark of the first period Brian and John Scammell faced off against the Kaluzniak brothers. Sent to the penalty box, they were let out at the 6:36 mark of the first period and they fought again. Let out at the 13:11 mark, Brian and Gary Kaluzniak went at it again ending both their nights.
Brian recalled Marg and Stub Ross, his billets, sitting behind the penalty box. When he returned home from the game, Marg had written him a note questioning his thought process over engaging in three successive fights. Not wanting to fight the third time, knowing he’d be kicked out of the game, he told Kaluzniak “no” but he wouldn’t back down and Brian’s night ended.
The Broncos hammered the Wheat Kings 7-3 for Sauter’s first win as a coach. He commented after the game “Hopefully we’ll have Sutter back on left wing Wednesday. He didn’t see much action tonight.”
The Broncos faced off against the Wheat Kings two nights later and tied them 3-3. Brian remained out of the penalty box the entire game.
After tying the first-place Saskatoon Blades and defeating the Edmonton Oil Kings 3-1 the Broncos headed into Medicine Hat to face their rivals. Where do you start? The Broncos lost 6-5 but a third-period bench clearing brawl saw both Sauter and Regier taken to the Medicine Hat jail. Sauter, forgetting he wasn’t playing anymore, punched Tiger defenceman John Hilworth. Brian had defeated Hilworth in a second-period fight. In the third period, Hilworth took a run at Desjardins. Teammate Mike Boychuk stepped in. On Hilworth’s journey to the penalty box, beside the Bronco bench, he challenged the team and Sauter responded with a punch. He was suspended for his actions.
With aggressive hockey part of the new-look Broncos, their fortunes improved with Sauter’s arrival. Beyond the aggressive style of play, two additions to the team made a significant difference. Ron Delorme had been playing in the WHA but when his team folded he returned as an overage for the last third of the season. His hard-hitting style fit into Sauter’s philosophy as did defenceman Doug Johnston, who was acquired from Calgary. With Regier returning from a broken jaw and Wade Smith from a shoulder issue, the Broncos took off - winning 12 consecutive home games.
When playoffs arrived the Broncos faced the first-place Saskatoon Blades. The Blades were led by Bernie Federko, who established a WHL record with 185 points, while Blair Chapman scored 71 goals. Against this powerful offensive team, the Broncos battled them for seven games before losing. The addition of Rocky Saganiuk for the playoffs help lift the team, but it was the hard-nosed leadership from Brian that propelled the Broncos.
Playing with rookie centre, Steve Tambellini, Brian had a very successful season. He played all 72 games, scoring 36 goals and 92 points, second on the team behind Tambellini. Brian led the team with 233 penalty minutes. Named the MVP of the Broncos, Brian headed to Red Deer for the summer hoping he’d be drafted.
The NHL draft in 1976 was significantly different than what exists today. Scouts and NHL teams didn’t engage with the players. Aside from weighing and measuring their height, there was little indication of where you stood. “I knew many of the scouts liked me, but that didn’t mean I’d be drafted.”
“On the day of the draft I was working on a paving crew in Red Deer. I was getting married the following week,” stated Brian. “Everyone on the paving crew was listening to the sports news for draft results. When they told me be big Harold Phillipoff from the New Westminster Bruins was drafted 10th overall, I knew I’d be drafted” stated Brian.
When the St. Louis Blues’ second selection at No. 20 arrived, Brian was selected. “It was pretty special,” when his work crew told him he’d been selected. “I called Judy and my mom and dad to let them know.”
Emile Francis was the general manager of the Blues and he quickly contacted Brian. Agents had agreements with junior teams. I was notified by an agent that he’d represent me. “After meeting with him, he seemed unethical and I fired him within two weeks,” stated Brian. He’d later go to jail for his actions as a player agent.
Francis offered Brian a two-way three-year contract for $13,000, $15,000 and $17,000. A fourth-year option was included for $19,000. Brian responded with an emphatic “no.” “I can make more money farming.”
One week following the draft, Brian married Judy Ohrn in Red Deer and they headed west to Kelowna for a short honeymoon. Having made a quick response to the initial Blues offer, when they arrived in Kelowna, Francis called, stating he wanted to meet Brian in Montreal immediately.
They immediately headed back to Red Deer and then off to Montreal to meet with Francis. While it wasn’t the honeymoon they planned, they were wined and dined by Francis.
Having rejected the initial offer, Francis offered Brian a three-year contract - $19,000, $21,000, and $25,000 with a $50,000 signing bonus. It was a two-way contract where Brian would make significantly less if he were assigned to the Kansas City Blues an CHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.
Brian arrived for the Blues training camp in the fall of 1976, hopeful to make an impression. Also present was Bernie Federko, the Blues top pick in the NHL draft, and a scoring star for the Saskatoon Blades. The Blues had gone through three coaches the previous season prompting Francis to take the reins behind the bench. A strong believer in players earning their dues, he sent both Brian and Federko to Kansas City.
The Blues joined the league in 1967 and were very successful early in franchise history appearing in the Stanley Cup finals for the first three years of their existence. As the 1976-77 approached they were an older struggling team led by nine players over the age of 30. In addition to being an older team, ownership was struggling. The Salomon brothers who owned the team were on the brink of bankruptcy. The team was saved when pet food giant, Ralston Purina purchased the franchise.
Barclay Plager played two games early in the season with the Blues before being offered the head coaching job in Kansas City. When Brian arrived, he made it clear that he and Federko were the future of the Blues and he put them together on a line with Rick Bourbonnais. They dominated the CHL for the first half of the season.
Francis, watching from afar, recognized they were ready for the NHL and all three were called up for the second half of the season. Once they arrived, they saw limited ice time. “I watched and learned,” stated Brian. Brian scored his first NHL goal on Bernie Parent, Feb. 26, 1977 in a 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Blues made the playoffs and their first opponent was Montreal, who many experts claim were the greatest team in hockey history. The 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, lost only eight games on their way to the Stanley Cup. The Blues exited quickly, losing four straight. They only scored four goals in the series, Brian had one of them.
Brian’s second season began with Leo Boivin behind the bench. Both Brian and Federko were relegated to the fourth line and saw little ice time through the first half of the season. When Boivin was replaced by Barclay Plager in early February, both the team and Brian’s fortunes improved. Brian only scored nine goals, but a more substantial role awaited.
The following season, the Blues, struggles continued. They missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Despite the team struggling, Brian became one of the top left wingers in the NHL. He scored 41 goals, the most by a left winger in the league, ninth overall in goal scoring.
Now that his first three seasons were completed, Brian was ready for a new contract. Coming off a 41-goal season, he was in a good position for a substantial raise. Negotiations proceeded slowly until both Francis and Brian agreed to meet at the Checkerdome. Brian recalled Francis stating, “Write what you think you’re worth on a piece of paper and I’ll do the same.” Brian, thinking $75,000 for three seasons was fair, was shocked when Francis handed him his paper with the figure $125,000 written on it. “Mr. Francis never asked for my number and we quickly agreed,” stated Brian. When asked about individual bonuses, Brian responded “I’m only interested in team bonuses and they need to include the training staff.”
Brian was honoured when he was named captain of the Blues for the 1979-80 season at the age of 23. The following season, the Blues had their most successful season ever, when they finished second in the NHL with 107 points, trailing only the Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders. The Blues goalie Mike Luit had a tremendous season as did Brian with his 35 goals. Unfortunately, they lost in the second round of the playoffs to an inferior New York Rangers squad in six games.
The Blues were again impacted by financially struggling owners. Harry Ornest purchased the team following the 1982-83 season after Ralston Purina sold the team to Bill Hunter, who planned to move the team to Saskatoon. When the league failed to approve the sale, Ornest purchased the team for $12 million saving the franchise. Unfortunately, during the sale of the team, the Blues with all of their staff released, didn’t send a representative to the 1983 NHL draft. In a draft that featured Steve Yzerman, Pat LaFontaine, Cam Neely and Tom Barrasso, the Blues didn’t make a pick. Francis with all of the uncertainty over the team’s future, left to join the Hartford Whalers. The draft in particular haunted the Blues for many seasons.
Brian’s playing career took a turn for the worst during the 1985-86 season when he broke his scapula. After 40 games he was averaging a point a game on his way to another successful season. Dino Ciccarelli hit him with a bodycheck that wasn’t particularly hard. Suffering from an ankle injury, Brian lost his balance and crashed into the boards awkwardly. Both he and the trainer thought he be back within weeks. “No one knew how to treat it,” explained Brian. He missed the remainder of the regular season.
Brian returned for the playoffs and was part of the “Monday Night Miracle” when they defeated the Calgary Flames in Game 6 of the conference finals. Down 4-1 heading into the third period Brian scored to make it 5-3, assisted on a goal by Greg Paslawski to make it 5-4. Paslawski then stripped the puck from a Flames defenceman with only a minute remaining in the game to even the score at five. Doug Wickenheiser scored the winner in overtime sending the series back to Calgary for Game 7 where they lost 2-1 sending the Flames to the Stanley Cup finals. This was as close as Brian would get to the Stanley Cup finals during his career.
With Brian’s shoulder still troubling him, the trainer of the Blues, Norm Mackie, friends with several surgeons in Los Angeles, referred Brian to them. Both were involved in baseball and had a great understanding of shoulder injuries. They immediately put Brian on a training regime that helped, but it was a slow process. Unfortunately, Brian was only able to play 14 games.
With ownership again in a state of disarray, coach Jacques Demers made the decision to leave the Blues and sign with the Detroit Red Wings. Replacing Demers was a youthful Jacques Martin. Martin played goal for St. Lawrence University and then taught school following his graduation. He was named the head coach of the Guelph Platters in 1985-86, his first head coaching job. In his one and only season in Guelph, they captured the Memorial Cup. Ron Caron, impressed by this sudden success, named him head coach of the Blues for the 1986-87 season.
Brian missed nearly the entire season but was ready to go for the 1987-88 season. Martin decided at this stage in Brian’s career to make him a third-line checking winger, which was fine with Brian. What really disappointed Brian was Martin’s assessment that “I wasn’t good enough for the power play.”
Despite a disappointing offensive season, scoring only 15 goals, Brian was prepared to continue his career. At 31, Brian was confident he had several good years remaining. Brian signed another three-year contract averaging over $250,000 per season. With the firing of Jacques Martin, he looked forward to a bigger offensive role on the Blues.
Heading to the Gulf of Mexico for a short vacation after re-signing his contract with the Blues he received a call from general manager Ron Caron asking for him to stop at the rink before leaving. Caron asked Brian to coach the Blues. A major decision loomed. Retire when he could still contribute, or take the opportunity to coach a team he’d played for his entire career and was passionate about. Brian agreed to coach, but insisted the player contract he signed be honoured. Suddenly, he was the youngest coach in the NHL, and the highest paid.
Brian played for the St. Louis Blues from 1976 to 1988. During those 12 seasons he played with a tenacity and drive unlike any other Blue. Brian never missed more than two games in a row over his first 10 seasons. “I never dreamed of missing a game,” stated Brian. In addition to the durability, Brian scored over 40 goals in two seasons, four times he exceeded 30 while leading the team in fighting majors and penalty minutes.
Brian retired as the third-highest scorer and point getter in the history of the Blues. Only Brett Hull and Bernie Federko are ahead of him. Brian stands first all-time in penalty minutes.
Many naysayers stated that Brian couldn’t skate or score. “My biggest pleasure was accomplishing something someone said you weren’t capable of doing,” said Brian as he reflected on his hockey career.
On Dec. 30, 1988 his No. 11 was retired by the Blues. With him that night were his parents and billet mother Marg Ross.
Brian coached the Blues for the next four years. During the first three years they improved each year. In 1990-91, his third year behind the bench, he was awarded the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year. The Blues had 105 points, led by Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Brendan Shanahan and Scott Stevens.
During each of Brian’s first three years they advanced to the second round of the playoffs but no further. In Brian’s fourth year the team regressed, finishing with 83 points. When the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Blues in the first-round, ownership made the decision to fire Brian.
When rumours of Brian’s firing surfaced, Brett Hull expressed his misgivings. “I hope they don’t make the mistake of getting rid of Sutter. What you see out there is a product of Brian Sutter.”
On May 1, 1992 Brian was relieved of his duties. After 16 years of giving every ounce of his being to the Blues, his time in St. Louis was over. Brian had coached longer and won more games than any other coach in Blues history. Ownership claimed it was due to Brian’s inability to take the team on a prolonged playoff run.
When Brian was dismissed, his two brothers, Rich and Ron, played for St. Louis and both faced scrutiny from the organization in respect to their reaction to Brian’s departure. In typical Sutter fashion, they played hard the next season before being traded.
Harry Sinden of the Boston Bruins watched closely and when Sutter was dismissed, he was on the phone immediately. Brian signed the longest and largest coaching contract in Bruins history when he accepted the position during the summer of 1992.
Brian had an immediate impact on the Bruins when he took over. Led by former Blue Adam Oates, Ray Bourque, Joe Juneau and Andy Moog the team improved from 84 points the previous season to 109 points. A disappointing loss to Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs ended the season.
Brian’s next two seasons were consistently good but a long playoff run again eluded Brian and he was dismissed after his third season in Boston.
When winter arrived Brian was out of hockey for the first time since his junior hockey career began. When Brian signed his first professional contract, he began farming during the off-season near Sylvan Lake, Alta. Without a coaching job, Brian was able to devote his energy to his other passion, ranching.
Despite his love of ranching, hockey still had a grip on Brian. During the summer of 1997, the Calgary Flames called and offered Brian another opportunity to coach. The Flames were struggling when Brian accepted the coaching job.
From the 1994-95 season, the Flames began a period of decline that lasted until 2003-04 season, when Brian’s brother, Darryl, assumed the coaching role. Brian witnessed first hand the Flames’ struggles.
During Brian’s three seasons in Calgary, they had the lowest payroll in the NHL and were unable to gain any traction finishing out of the playoffs each season. The Flames were in the process of developing young talent including Jerome Iginla and Martin St. Louis. Immediately after Brian and Al Coates, the general manager, were dismissed in the spring of 2000, St. Louis was released. He’d go on to have a tremendous career with the Tampa Bay Lighting and was part of the Stanley Cup champions in 2004 when they defeated the Flames in seven games.
When Brian’s contract was not renewed, he headed back to the farm.
Within one season Brian was offered the coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 2001. The Hawks improved from 71 points to 96 points in Brian’s first season behind the bench. The team, however, was old and in decline. Eleven members of the Hawks were over 30 years of age with no young prospects on the way.
The decline continued during Brian’s next two seasons at the helm. Recognizing the need to get younger, the Hawks began a process of rebuilding, drafting Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and Dustin Byfuglien in the 2003 NHL draft. Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane would be drafted in later years and by 2009 they were ready to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Brian wouldn’t be part of the improved Hawks as his contract was not renewed after the 2003-04 season.
Brian’s days of coaching in the NHL were over, but his love of the game remained. For the next 15 years Brian coached in the Chinook Hockey League with the Bentley Generals and the Innisfail Eagles vying for an Allan Cup, emblematic of top amateur senior men’s hockey team in Canada.
With Brian behind the bench the Bentley Generals in 2009, captured the Allan Cup. On four occasions Brian’s teams lost in the final.
Brian left his senior hockey coaching days behind in fall of 2022. After coaching the Eagles for 10 seasons Brian felt he couldn’t commit to the full-time role the job demanded. Brian stated, “I only missed one practice since taking on the role. I know when you make a commitment to something, you need to make a commitment all the way.”
When Brian departed, Ryan Dood, the Eagles general manager, stated “He’s a great person. He’s a great mentor. He’s just a phenomenal coach, Brian has done so many amazing things for our hockey organization and for our town.”
With that, one would think Brian’s days of coaching would be over. However, two young grandsons living in Lethbridge, needed a coach. Brian again stepped forward to help.
Both of Brian’s children have been connected to the city of Lethbridge through hockey. Shaun was born in the summer of 1980 and like his father fell in love with the game. When Brian returned from Boston, Shaun played his minor hockey in Red Deer. In May of 1995 Shaun was drafted in the 6th round, by the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Shaun played parts of three seasons with the Hurricanes from 1996 to 1999 before finishing his WHL career with Medicine Hat and Calgary. Shaun was drafted in the 4th round of the 1998 NHL draft by the Calgary Flames. While never playing in the NHL, Shaun played five seasons in the AHL and ECHL before spending four seasons playing in Europe. Shaun is currently the associate general manager of the Red Deer Rebels, working for his Uncle Brent.
Shaun and his wife Autumn have a daughter Saige, who is an elite soccer player. She played hockey at a younger age but turned her full attention to soccer.
Brian’s daughter Abby, married Brent Kisio the son of NHLer Kelly Kisio. Brent is currently the assistant coach of the Henderson Silver Knights, the AHL farm team of the Vegas Golden Knights. Brent was the head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes for eight seasons from 2016 to 2023.
Abby and Brent have three children. Summer 13, loves to dance while Owen 12, and Jack 9, are passionate about hockey and love having their grandfather behind the bench guiding them on their hockey journey.
In 2014 Brian was named to the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and in 2017 he was named to the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame. Beginning in 1996, the Sutter Fund began donating millions to charity.
Determination, tenacity and perseverance defined Brian’s character both as a hockey player and a person. Brian was impacted by his family and his life on the farm and by so many people he met in hockey. Brian led the way for the rest of his younger brothers. He may have opened doors, but each had to make it on their own, displaying the character and work ethic the entire Sutter family became noted for.
Lethbridge had a significant impact on Brian, not only through hockey but through the many people who influenced him. Earl Ingarfield, Denny Kjeldgaard and the Ross family helped pave the way for his future success both in hockey and life.
Darcy Kaminski, Defence, 1981-1985
Darcy joined the Lethbridge Broncos during their run to the Western Hockey League regular season championship during the 1981-82 season. A four-year veteran of the WHL, he and Jamie Pushor were the only local products to captain either the Broncos or Hurricanes during the past 48 seasons of WHL action in Lethbridge.
Darcy was born and raised in Lethbridge. His father owned a farm just outside of the city at the end of Broxburn Road where he spent his summers helping him. Despite his dad’s lack of enthusiasm for the sport of hockey, both Darcy and his twin brother David fell in love with the game.
Darcy’s mom, Marjorie, was a cousin of Hockey Hall of Fame Boston Bruin forward Johnny Bucyk. With this connection to the hockey world, she supported and encouraged her sons to play.
Darcy recalled at a young age visiting relatives in Edmonton and seeing his famous relative. In addition, he recalled visiting with him in Creston, B.C., during a summer vacation.
Darcy’s introduction to minor hockey began at the age of 11, when he was allowed to play as an underage with his twin brother David. With a parent coaching, minor hockey allowed players under the age of 12 to participate. With this in mind, his mother Marjorie joined Peter Kish behind the bench.
Darcy excelled at the game as he moved through his early years in minor hockey. With an abundance of desire and talent, it was during the 1978-79 hockey season that both he and David were listed by the Broncos. Darcy recalled being close friends with Danny Ginnell, son of Bronco coach Paddy, who listed them both.
Darcy and David quickly moved up the ranks joining the Midget AAA Elk Broncos as 15-year-olds under the tutelage of Bob Bartlett, who Darcy described as the “best coach I’ve ever had.”
The 1979-80 edition of the Elk Broncos lost in the semifinals of the provincial championship to a Sherwood Park team coached by Ken Hitchcock. Rick Gal was the star of the Elk Broncos and was one of many teammates to play in the WHL.
Excited to be part of the Bronco organization, Darcy was informed in the spring of 1980 that his rights had been acquired by the Medicine Hat Tigers.
In the spring of 1980, the WHL had a junior deletion draft when teams had their lists reduced from 90 to 70 players. The Medicine Hat Tigers had the first pick and selected Mark Messier who had joined the WHA as a 17-year-old. His selection was a longshot but their second selection was young defenceman Darcy Kaminski. Ginnell expressed shock in the Medicine Hat News when he discovered Darcy was available. “Something was wrong,” stated Ginnell. “They protected the wrong guy” when he discovered the Broncos protected David and not Darcy.
Darcy’s recollection of attending a Tiger spring camp in Edmonton consists of nothing but the fights. “That’s all they did,” said Darcy. Kelly Hrudey, the Tigers starting goalie, was tasked with dropping the puck during the scrimmages. “He even got into a fight,” added Darcy.
The 1980-81 Elk Broncos lost their leading scorer Rick Gal to the Broncos in addition to several other standouts who joined the Taber Golden Suns of the AJHL. With a younger team, Bartlett saw the leadership Darcy provided and named him captain. Other members of the team included brother David, Vern Smith, Bill Bartlett, Ken Owsley, Scott Maxwell and Matt Kabayama.
Darcy struggled with injuries during his second season breaking both his right and left wrists at different times. Disappointed with the turn of events and the team not playing as well as the year previous, Darcy, now property of the Tigers, was apprehensive about his future.
Behind the scenes things were about to change. John Chapman arrived as new coach of the Broncos. Intent on recruiting hard-working, hard-nosed players, his scouts recommended Darcy, letting Chapman know of the potential he had in becoming a standout WHL defenceman.
On May 22, 1981 Chapman sent Jim Hougen, Dean McArthur, Ron Renner and Doug Kyle to the Tigers for Scott Young, Wayne Walker and Darcy Kaminski. Thrilled by the news, Darcy was excited and optimistic about his hockey future, hopeful of joining the Broncos for the 1981-82 season.
When the fall of 1981 arrived, Darcy was determined to be part of a Bronco team led by Brent Sutter. The Broncos were considered to be one of the top teams in the league. Darcy was challenged with cracking a Broncos defence core led by Randy Moller and Grant Couture. It was not to be. Rookies Vern Smith and Marty Ruff made the team while Darcy was sent to play for the Olds Grizzlies. The Taber Golden Suns relocated to Olds and the community was excited about having an AJHL team to cheer for.
Disappointed at being cut by the Broncos, he was excited to be part of a new team in town. Chris Orban, a Taber native, was named captain. Darcy began the season playing with AJHL veteran Gary Saloff.
The Broncos were dominant during the 1981-82 season. Led by Brent Sutter, Mike and Randy Moller, they were favourites to win the league championship. When Brent Sutter was recalled by the New York Islanders at Christmas and with both Mollers playing in the World Junior Hockey Championship, Chapman called up Darcy.
Darcy arrived just in time for a road trip to Manitoba where they faced the last-place Winnipeg Warriors. Darcy sat on the bench through most of the game, aside from serving a bench minor. After a disappointing 6-5 loss, they headed to Brandon where they struggled losing 8-5.
Chapman was furious with the outcome and when the Broncos returned in the early morning hours, they were greeted with a “bag skate” Darcy remembered vividly. The next morning Chapman phoned him, informing him he was being returned to Olds. Darcy also discovered his brother David had totalled his car. With these two pieces of news, Darcy grabbed his gear, jumped on a Greyhound bus and headed back to Olds.
Darcy played 11 games for the Broncos, getting his first taste of action in the WHL. Finishing the season with Olds he played well, developing his defensive skills, hopeful to join the Broncos for the next season.
When training camp started in the fall of 1982 the Broncos were coming off a tremendous regular season and disappointing playoff run against the Regina Pats. The 1982-83 Bronco squad was picked to by many to be the top team in the league. With 10 regulars attending NHL camps, it provided Darcy a great opportunity to impress. Darcy and Mark Tinordi made the team as rookies. Had Randy Moller returned from the Quebec Nordiques, one or both may not have made the team.
The Broncos and their fans were excited to begin the season. However, high expectations didn’t translate into performance. With 10 regulars returning from NHL camps, a hangover was present and the team was not ready when the season began.
The Broncos lost their first five games and struggled throughout the first three months of the season to gain traction.
Darcy was instrumental in the Broncos’ first home-ice win over the Winnipeg Warriors when he picked up his first WHL assist on J.C. McEwan’s winning goal. Chapman praised his play in the Lethbridge Herald. “He has played pretty steady for us. He played well on the road, he works hard and plays with lots of enthusiasm,” said Chapman.
While Darcy’s play was improving, the Broncos nevertheless continued their monumental struggles as Christmas approached.
“Trading for Bob Rouse made all the difference,” stated Darcy. Rouse was one of the best defencemen in the WHL and would play over 1,000 games in the NHL. His presence on the backend steadied the entire team and their improved play sent the Broncos on a remarkable second-half journey that ended with a WHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup.
“My greatest thrill in hockey,” stated Darcy when he recalled his feelings following their victory over Portland in the WHL final.
Darcy played much of the season with Gerald Diduck on the best defensive team in junior hockey. As a rookie, the experience of playing on a championship team with a close group of teammates remains vivid in Darcy’s memory. Tears were in Darcy’s eyes as he recalled winning the championship in front of family and friends at the Sportsplex.
Heading to the Memorial Cup they were without one of their key players when goaltender Ken Wregget sprained his ankle. Dave Ross, a call-up from Kamloops, started the first game against Oshawa. The Broncos gave up three early goals and were beaten 8-2.
“Dwayne Murray should have started that game,” stated Darcy of the Broncos’ back-up goalie.
Other memories include the anger they felt when Calgary Wranglers’ goalie Mike Vernon decided to play for Portland instead of Lethbridge. Despite the disappointment of losing in the Memorial Cup, the thrill of winning the WHL championship remains.
Promised a trip to Hawaii if they won the WHL championship, the team left Portland and headed straight to Oahu for a week of relaxation. Darcy recalled the great time the team had in Hawaii. On their return, Darcy’s mom asked Chappy how the boys behaved. Chappy laughed, “anyone with a tan behaved themselves. If they don’t have a tan, they spent all night drinking and all day sleeping.”
Following the 1982-83 season there was discussion about Darcy being possibly drafted in the NHL. While hopeful, it would be a pleasant surprise if he went. Darcy recalled being invited to do a radio interview on draft day by a local station. At the time of the interview 10 rounds of the draft had gone by and he hadn’t been selected. Following the interview, he asked to stay and watch the draft selections on the FAX machine. Looking intently, he spotted his name in round 12, the 224th selection, by the Hartford Whalers.
He quickly informed the radio station of his selection and they redid the interview. Extremely proud to be selected, he received a phone call from general manager Emile Francis congratulating him and letting him know the Whalers were excited to have him attend their fall training camp in Hartford.
The year of 1983 was special. Winning a WHL championship, being selected rookie of the year on the Broncos and being drafted in the NHL were very special moments and remain fond memories years later.
Training all summer, Darcy headed to Hartford in the middle of September for his first NHL training camp. “I was so nervous,” recalled Darcy. “I just couldn’t get a feel for the sticks and I wasn’t very happy with my performance. During scrimmages I played with Joel Quenneville through the early part of camp.” Not offered an NHL contract, Darcy was committed to having a great season in hopes of changing the minds of the Whalers organization.
Sent back to the Broncos, he was excited about the upcoming year as the team appeared ready and able to repeat as champions. Ken Wregget, Bob Rouse, Gerald Diduck, Grant Couture, Mark Tinordi, Mike Berger and Darcy would be part of the strongest defensive unit in junior hockey.
The Broncos had the best defensive hockey team in junior hockey during the 1983-84 season, allowing the fewest goals. Scoring would be their undoing. The eventual WHL champions Kamloops Oilers scored 467 goals. The Broncos had 271, the second fewest in the league.
Despite their lack of scoring, the Broncos were hopeful they’d repeat, given the scenario entering playoffs was similar to the previous season when a great defensive effort defeated the second-highest scoring unit in the league, the Saskatoon Blades.
It was not to be. The Brandon Wheat Kings, led by the 108 goals from another Hartford Whaler draft pick Ray Ferraro, defeated the Broncos four games to one.
Darcy remembered the last game of the season played in Virden, Man., as “a shitty game in a shitty rink.” Wregget was sick with strep throat and with him not feeling well, a dispirited team played a lacklustre game to end the season.
With their two top scorers, Rick Gal and J.C. McEwan, graduating, in addition to Wregget and Rouse, a rebuild was about to begin with Darcy hoping to be a big part of it.
Darcy was not invited to the Whalers training camp in the fall of 1985. “I wanted to return as an overage with the Broncos,” stated Darcy. “I needed another year in junior.”
Steve Nemeth had an exceptional season rookie season in 1983-84 and with AJHL scoring star Terry Houlder from the Red Deer Rustlers arriving at camp, the Broncos were hopeful they’d be competitive. Seven 16-year-olds from the previous season were returning and with their added maturity and the addition of top prospects Warren Babe and Jayson More, Chapman felt the rebuild was well on its way.
Darcy, Dwight Mullins and Mark Tinordi were named assistant captains. Chapman was hoping star defenceman Gerald Diduck would return from the New York Islanders, therefore he left the captaincy vacant. Needing the skill and leadership from Diduck to help a young, skilled team move forward, his loss significantly hurt the fortunes of the Broncos when he made the New York Islanders as a 19-year-old.
Needing a captain, Chapman approached Darcy in early December asking him to take on the role. “When Chappy called me into his office I thought I was being traded,” stated Darcy. Honoured to serve as captain, Darcy had his best season in the WHL scoring 11 goals and adding 46 assists for a total of 57 points, fifth on the team in scoring.
The Broncos produced more offence but allowed more goals and finished with 62 points, fifth in the East Division. When the season concluded they would play the fourth-place Calgary Wranglers in the first round of the playoffs. The Wranglers had finished with 18 more points and were decided favourites as the playoffs began. As expected, the Wranglers defeated the Broncos three games to one in a best-of-five series, ending Darcy’s WHL career.
On awards night, Darcy was selected MVP of both the regular season and playoffs and he received the Joan Kobal Award for perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship. Five members of the youthful Broncos were selected in the NHL draft – Mike Berger, Dwight Mullins, Trent Kaese, Steve Nemeth and Rich Weist.
Like Bob Bartlett, Chapman was a tremendous coach who had a significant influence on Darcy and his hockey career. The Broncos dressing room had a saying “Mental toughness is the key to success,” something Chapman emphasized. Another important belief stressed by Chapman was “What you do in practice – you do in a game.”
As his last season in the WHL progressed, Darcy, wanting to continue his hockey career, wrote several NHL teams letters expressing a desire to be part of their organizations. The Hartford Whalers and the Edmonton Oilers both expressed strong interest in Darcy, who made the decision to return to Hartford for training camp in the fall of 1985.
Pleased with his effort, but injured in an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins, the Whalers offered Darcy an opportunity to play in the IHL on a minor league contract. Darcy made the decision to utilize his educational money from the WHL and attend university.
The University of Saskatchewan expressed interest and Darcy headed north to Saskatoon hoping to jump into the lineup. He quickly realized it wasn’t a fit and returned to Lethbridge where he enrolled at the University of Lethbridge, joining the Pronghorns under the guidance of Dave McDowell. Darcy played 11 games his first year and accumulated 12 points for a struggling Pronghorn team.
On Dec. 5, 1985, following the firing of John Chapman as coach and the hiring of Earl Jessiman, the Broncos approached Darcy asking him to serve as an assistant coach. Darcy agreed and served in that capacity for the remainder of the year.
The 1985-86 season would be the last year the Broncos were in Lethbridge. They struggled, barely making the playoffs and then lost nine of 10 playoff games ending their time in Lethbridge.
Darcy recalled driving by the Sportsplex and seeing the Bronco bus leave on its way to Swift Current. Part of the highest and lowest moments in franchise history, the sadness over this remains to this day as he watched the team leave.
Still interested in playing, Darcy began the 1986-87 season with the Pronghorns. Unfortunately, he tore his MCL in an exhibition game, ending his season and his time in university.
With no professional offers, Darcy began a new career working as a correctional officer in the Young Offender Centre in Lethbridge in addition to CAPS – transporting prisoners to court.
Hockey was now strictly for fun, playing in the recreational league and with the Lethbridge Correctional Centre in their annual provincial Solicitor General tournament.
Having had a taste of coaching with the Broncos, Darcy was thrilled when Wayne Simpson, general manager of the Hurricanes, approached him to join the coaching staff for the 1989-90 season. The Canes had a new coach in Bob Loucks and with Darcy joining the team they were set on improving after two frustrating seasons in Lethbridge. The Canes had won only 27 games the previous season and lost in the second round of playoffs.
With Loucks and Darcy guiding the Canes, a remarkable transformation occurred as they led the Eastern Division with 106 points before losing in the WHL finals to the Kamloops Blazers. The Canes were led by Corey Lyons, Wes Walz and Bryan Bosch, who all finished in the top 10 in WHL scoring. The Canes also had five 50-goal scorers, tying a league record. They finished second in WHL scoring and first in defence when the season concluded.
In addition to coaching the team, Darcy was often asked to drive the bus. This was something he was able to do having driven trucks on the farm as a young man. The problem – he didn’t have the correct licence to do so! He recalled telling Simpson “I need more money,” and Simpson responded with a laugh, “when you show me your licence!”
Coaching was something Darcy loved and it was a tremendous experience but the itch to play remained. Trevor Jobe, a close friend, was playing for the Hampton Road Admirals of the ECHL under John Brophy. He encouraged Brophy to pursue Darcy for the 1990-91 season.
Brophy had played in the EHL for over 15 seasons and began a coaching career in 1967 in the EHL. Brophy was named the head coach of the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA in 1978-79. The following season, despite missing the playoffs, he was named WHA coach of the year guiding a team that had six underage junior players that included Rick Vaive, Michel Goulet, Rob Ramage, Craig Hartsburg and Gaston Gingras. In 1984, he was named an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs and spent three seasons from 1986 to 1989 as head coach of the Leafs. When he was fired he took the reins of the Road Admirals in 1989. Brophy had over 4,000 penalty minutes playing in the EHL and was known to love the violent and aggressive tactics that were popular during the 1970s and 1980s.
Darcy agreed to head to Norfolk, Virginia, to begin his professional career in the ECHL. During training camp he recalled Brophy yelling at him to use the glass to clear the puck out of their end. Shortly after, he fired the puck and hit Brophy, who snapped. Darcy thought he’d be heading back to Lethbridge. It was not to be. Darcy made the team and he’d play six seasons of professional hockey in the ECHL and CHL.
During Darcy’s first season with the Road Admirals he broke his wrist and missed 20 games but impressed Brophy. Winning seemed to follow Darcy, and he was part of the Kelly Cup-winning squad when they defeated the Greensboro Monarchs four games to one.
While coaching the Hurricanes in the WHL championship against Kamloops, Phil Huber, a 69-goal scorer for the Blazers, often exchanged less than complimentary words with Darcy on the bench. With Darcy now playing, he encountered Huber who was now playing for the Richmond Renegades. “I reminded him what he had said to me,” stated Darcy, “when I smacked him into the boards and pounded him in a fight.”
Following his championship season, he contacted a former Bronco teammate Troy Loney, who was playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final against the Minnesota North Stars. Loney provided Darcy four tickets to Games 1 and 2 in Pittsburgh and paid for two nights of accommodation. This gesture was beyond any expectation Darcy had, but it fell completely in line with Loney’s character - something Darcy admired from his days with the Broncos.
Prior to Game 1 of the series, Darcy encountered Don Cherry under the stands and had a brief conversation with him. Darcy let Cherry know of his hockey background and asked “if you have a chance can you reach out in your broadcast and say hi to all my friends and family in Lethbridge?” To Darcy’s surprise, Cherry did so in his broadcast.
Once Darcy’s junior career began he spent parts of each summer working with Chapman at the PONY Hockey School in Coaldale. Following his junior hockey days, Darcy started a hockey school in Casper, Wyoming where he worked for eight summers with teammates from the ECHL. Darcy recalled the experience was positive and rewarding working with young players.
Darcy continued to be impacted by injuries during his second season and played only 24 games. However, Brophy asked Darcy, suffering from a long-term injury, to join the coaching staff which he was thrilled to do. The Road Admirals repeated as Kelly Cup champions of the ECHL defeating the Louisville Ice Hawks in four straight games. Two seasons, two championships!
Darcy joined the Nashville Knights for the 1992-93 season. Coached by Nick Fotiu, he joined his good friend Trevor Jobe for a season filled with good times in the country music capital of the world. Jobe, a former Bronco, was a prolific scorer in the ECHL leading the league with 85 goals and in points with 161. To show his dominance, the second-leading scorer on his team was Troy Mick, with 70 points.
The Knights lost in the semifinal to the Toledo Storm in seven games. The Storm would win the ECHL title that season.
Darcy returned home following the 1992-93 season learning his mother Marjorie was seriously ill with cancer. His mother had been such a strong force behind his hockey career. Determined to remain at her side, he was about to leave his career behind to be with her during her final days. When she passed away that summer, he joined the Wichita Thunder of the CHL and played there for three seasons.
During Darcy’s time in hockey he suffered over 12 concussions, several of which occurred over a brief period of time. During the 1994-95 season he was brutally attacked by Dean Shymr of the San Antonio Iguanas. Following the game Darcy was informed the attack had been planned in retaliation for hits Darcy had inflicted on several of the Iguanas. Suffering a severe concussion and neck injury from the unprovoked attack, Darcy sued the CHL and Shymr for the damages inflicted. Winning the case, he was offered a larger sum that would prevent him from playing professional hockey again. The second option was to agree on a settlement of $36,000 and with a neurologist approval, the ability to play again. Darcy chose the latter.
In addition to the many hockey injuries he suffered, during the summer of 1997 while recovering from knee surgery he was shot in the leg outside a bar in Lethbridge by a 15-year-old youth who was attempting to rob him while taking money from a bank machine.
With his knee injury not fully recovered and having suffered trauma from a gun wound, Darcy knew his hockey days were over.
“Hockey was my life,” stated Darcy. Playing, coaching and being part of a team environment meant everything. Suddenly, Darcy needed to move away from hockey and begin a new life.
Serious hockey injuries impacted his transition, including the numerous concussions he suffered. Severe migraines and eye damage from those concussions required two surgeries to correct. In addition, knee, shoulder and hip injuries impact Darcy on a daily basis. Facing these monumental issues, Darcy struggled in his post hockey career.
With determination and resolve, he has worked hard to move forward in his life. A return to hockey has helped. Darcy currently volunteers to coach young players in the Premier Hockey League, formed to provide skill development outside of minor hockey governed by Hockey Alberta. In addition, he officiates games in the league. Monthly showcase tournaments are held throughout Alberta and British Columbia which Darcy participates in.
Darcy was recently asked to scout for the Okotoks Oilers, an AJHL franchise hosting the 2025 Centennial Cup.
Darcy also offers his time to community minded events that include the Winter Lights Festival at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.
Darcy’s time with the Broncos are his best hockey memories. “I dreamt of being a Bronco. Despite the struggles I’ve encountered, I wouldn’t change a thing when it comes to my time in hockey,” stated Darcy.
Rick Collier, Defence, 1975-76
Born and raised in Lethbridge, Rick joined the Broncos during the 1975-76 season, one of the few local products on the team.
Rick recalled growing up on the southside in the early 1960s. The city’s boundaries were marked by the train tracks dividing the north and south. Rick recalled being fearful venturing into the northside. “I always made sure I had someone with me.”
The northside, from the earliest days in Lethbridge, was home to many immigrants who worked in the coal mines. The southside of the city tended to be more white collar. This socio economic division in the city created conflict and rivalry, particularly among young people. The rivalry surfaced during sporting events and at times when well-known southsiders such as Rick, made their way north.
Growing up “I lived on my bike,” stated Rick. “Baseball, football, basketball, soccer and hockey occupied my time throughout the year.”
Lethbridge had only three rinks during the 1960s, Adams Ice Centre, Civic Centre and the Arena which burned down during a Lethbridge Sugar King game on March 13, 1972. Minor hockey was significantly different when Rick began his hockey journey. Organized hockey didn’t begin until you were 12 years of age. As a result, Rick and his friends spent hours playing hockey on Henderson Lake, attending public skating and playing street hockey.
Despite his love of hockey, football became Rick’s passion. Organized football began in Grade 7 at Gilbert Paterson Junior High. Being athletic, Rick’s skills quickly developed. By the time he reached high school he was considered one of the top high school football players in the city. Playing for LCI under the tutelage of Jim Whitelaw, his two seasons with the Rams were filled with awards. During his freshman season Rick was selected the rookie of the year in the Western Conference and was the top scorer in the league. During his first two years at LCI they captured league championships. Playing running back, outside linebacker, punter and field goal kicker, he was instrumental in the success LCI experienced during the 1973 and 1974 football seasons.
While busy on the gridiron, most of his friends loved hockey and Rick followed suit. Juggling hockey and football was a challenge but Whitelaw tolerated it.
Rick began playing minor hockey at the age of 12, playing in a 10-team house league in the city. The following season he made the top travelling team for his age group. The team was composed of many northsiders who became lifelong friends. Joe Meli, Mike Boychuk, Ron Moser, Pie Lavorato, Greg Kveder, Grant Marchuk, Brad Cox and Lorne Osmond all played together through minor hockey. Playing bantam and midget hockey, Rick was coached by Harold Osmond. During the next four years, Rick was part of three provincial championships.
Playing physical sports like football and hockey, injuries occurred. During the spring of 1975, Rick had an operation on his ankle. It didn’t heal properly and as a result it was difficult to run but Rick’s skating was not impacted. Suddenly, Rick turned his full attention to hockey.
The Swift Current Broncos arrived in Lethbridge the spring of 1974. The Broncos rookie camp was scheduled for early September. The Broncos were hoping for a good turnout from local prospects. “I had no intention of going,” recalled Rick. With most of his friends signed up to attend, Rick, not wanting to be left behind, signed up as well.
Rick’s first junior camp was eye-opening. Scrimmages quickly turned into brawls with players hoping to leave an impression. One such player was Archie Henderson, who took exception to a bodycheck from Rick. His gloves were off and Rick recalled just hanging on. Another rookie, Brian Sutter also dropped the gloves with Rick. Despite losing both fights, he still left a positive impression on coach Earl Ingarfield, who invited him to the main camp along with other local products that included Don Johnston, Bernie Syrenne, Bruce Small, Brad Cox and Mike Boychuk. Rick was thrilled to be part of the local contingent impressing the Bronco organization.
As training camp came to a close, Ingarfield and general manager Bill Burton offered Rick the opportunity play Junior A hockey in Swift Current. Questioning whether he wanted to go, he was pleased to find out Mike Boychuk had agreed to head east to be part of a new Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) expansion team. With that news, Rick headed to Swift Current to begin his junior hockey career.
Stan Dunn was the coach of the team. He had coached the 1973-74 WCHL edition of the Swift Current Broncos and was instrumental in turning the Broncos into a strong contender with the likes of Bryan Trottier, Dave “Tiger” Williams and Terry Ruskowski leading the way. Not wanting to uproot his family, Stan decided to remain in Swift Current rather than move with the franchise to Lethbridge. When offered the opportunity to coach the SJHL Broncos, he agreed and began putting together a strong team. Swift Current was affiliated with the Lethbridge Broncos so several members of the team including Rick, Mike Boychuk, Willie Desjardins and Dwayne Endicott were listed by the Lethbridge Broncos.
Stan was “a meat and potatoes guy, an old-school coach,” recalled Rick. Stan was respected by his players and was “a great teacher. I loved playing for him.”
Several members of the 1973-74 Swift Current Broncos remained in Swift Current and suited up with the new edition of the Broncos. Brian “Barney” Back, who had played on a line with Trottier and Williams the season before, was a leader on the team and was “tough as nails,” recalled Rick. In addition, Desjardins and Boychuk were among the top scorers on an expansion Bronco team that won the SJHL championship.
Rick enjoyed his first season of junior hockey but as he explained “I didn’t have drive or passion for the game.” After witnessing Brian Sutter in particular, and seeing how driven he was to win and succeed at the game, Rick quickly realized he was missing this important attribute. “I never worked out in the off season,” said Rick.
Having missed his final season of football while playing hockey in Swift Current, Rick was surprised to receive an invitation to play for Queens University. “A former teammate at LCI who was playing for Queens must have given the coach a heads up,” stated Rick. However, Rick had dropped out of school while playing in Swift Current. The invite was quickly dismissed and Rick began to look forward to making the Lethbridge Broncos for the 1975-76 season.
When September arrived and camp began, Rick played well and was invited to be part of the green and white intra-squad game, part of the final 40 players remaining in training camp. Rick held is own as did his friend Mike Boychuk, who scored three goals and added two assists. Both were off to the main camp.
Returning to coach the Broncos for their second season in Lethbridge was Earl Ingarfield. Having lost Bryan Trottier, the Broncos were counting on Brian Sutter to lead the way. The Broncos also had a star rookie centre in Steve Tambellini.
Darcy Regier, Doug Gillespie and Wade Smith were the returning defenceman. With only three returning on the back end, an opportunity was waiting and Rick took advantage of it and made the team.
Rick recalled how impressed he was playing for Ingarfield. “I was a real fan, he treated us well, was down to earth and taught players how to act like professionals.”
The Broncos captain was Brian Sutter, who led by example. “He worked harder than anyone, extremely intense, he was not intimidated by anyone or anything. He’d go through the wall to beat you,” Rick stated.
Rick stated the hardest shot on the team belonged to Mike Boychuk. “Until I played with former Lethbridge Hurricane Cory Lyons in recreation hockey, I’d never seen anyone shoot harder” recalled Rick. Boychuk scored 30 goals in his first season of junior with the Swift Current Broncos. During his first season playing in Lethbridge he tallied 18 before being traded to the Kamloops Chiefs where he scored 29 goals trailing only future NHL star Ryan Walter among forwards on the Chiefs. Boychuk never played professionally after his great season in Kamloops.
The most impressive hockey player according to Rick was rookie Steve Tambellini. Tambellini was an impressive skater with great hockey sense and tremendous skills. Rick remembered a bag skate the team experienced after a tough loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Each line took its turn and Rick watched Tambellini smoothly and effortlessly outskate everyone.
The Broncos started strongly winning their first four games of the season. Rick scored his first WCHL goal in the home opener against the Winnipeg Clubs in an 8-4 win.
Rick was paired with Regier on a frequent basis during the beginning of the season. The future general manager of the Buffalo Sabres was a “great guy,” recalled Rick.
Dale Yakiwchuk, a big 17-year-old forward, was a talented, fun-loving rookie. Rick recalled their first road trip to the West Coast where Yakiwchuk and Sutter wrestled for hours on the bus. There were lots of laughs but it was also very spirited.
Another character was trainer Dick Able. Rick recalled taking a shot in the ankle during a practice from Sutter. Dick asked Rick if he had a car which he did. His next response was “can you take yourself to the hospital.” A new whirlpool arrived in the training room early in the season. It became the go-to for Able. “Got a headache, sit in the whirlpool,” was a frequent response from Able.
After early season success the Broncos’ struggles began on a West Coast trip in November. The six-game trip included two games each against the Victoria Cougars, Kamloops Chiefs and New Westminster Bruins.
After being pounded by Kamloops 13-1, they headed to Vancouver to play the Bruins. Rick remembered the bus ride to the game. No one said a word as they headed to the Queens Park Arena. The Bruins were the toughest team in the league coached by Ernie “Punch” McLean. Barry Beck, Kevin Schamehorn, Clayton Pachal, and Brad Maxwell all exceeded 200 minutes in penalties. The Bruins, in addition to being tough, won the WCHL championship that season.
“I was scared as we entered the rink,” recalled Rick. Welcoming the Broncos was Tiger Williams who was in Vancouver with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He and several of his teammates came to the game and offered encouragement.
Rick stated “I learned I could play well scared,” as the Broncos defeated the Bruins 3-2 behind two goals from Desjardins and a single from Joe Meli.
After defeating the Bruins the Broncos took the ferry to Victoria to play the Cougars, who were filled with their share of tough guys including Don Johnson.
Following a tough 6-5 loss to the Cougars the Broncos returned to New Westminster where the Bruins, seeking revenge from the earlier loss, hammered the Broncos 6-1. “It was like going to war,” recalled Rick. The Bruins were intent on playing physical and after Pachal went after Tambellini at the 52-second mark of the first period, the fights were on. During the second period a line brawl erupted. Rick recalled sitting on the bench next to Morley Scott who stated, “let’s get out there. I remember saying ‘no’” as the brawl continued. Meli fought Terry Hochstetter and flipped him several times to the astonishment of the Bruins and their fans. When Beck saw what was happening, he left his fight with Wade Smith. Meli saw him coming and ducked. Beck flew over him and landed on the ice. The linesman broke the fight up but Beck was incensed. They later fought in a game in February in Lethbridge. Meli flipped Beck on his back, ending the fight without throwing a punch.
Meli was playing his first and only season with the Broncos. One of Canada’s top judokas, Meli was a quiet, strong leader who never looked for a fight. “He’d only beat you up if you asked him,” stated Rick. Meli was incredibly strong. His hands were like “a vise,” recalled Rick.
While on the West Coast the Broncos traded overage forward Jerry Bancks and rookie defenceman Morley Scott to the Calgary Centennials for Mike Fynn. That timing and location of the trade made it clear to Rick how insensitive junior hockey could be. It was a business. Watching Bancks depart the team as he headed to the airport was hard. Bancks was a leader on the team with a tremendous sense of humour.
As the season progressed trades were made to strengthen the defence. Rick Peter arrived from Victoria for Archie Henderson. Injuries also weakened the back end when John Scammell suffered a severe cut on his foot in the Bronco dressing room when several teammates were fooling around and he was stepped on with a skate.
With the team struggling and Ingarfield frustrated with his relationship with Burton, he resigned as coach of the Broncos in early January 1976. The Broncos had just returned from a six-game West Coast road trip that ended with six losses.
Mike Sauter was hired. Without a real opportunity to show his skills the decision to send Rick to the Taber Golden Suns of the AJHL was made following the acquisition of 19-year-old defenceman Doug Johnston from Calgary. Also joining the Broncos was overage forward Ron Delorme, who was part of the Denver Spurs/Ottawa Civics WHA franchise that folded in early January.
While disappointed by the turn of events, Rick headed to Taber to join the Golden Suns for the last part of the season. “I wasn’t obsessed with making it, I was done, I really didn’t want to be there,” stated Rick. Several of his friends were on the team which made the transition easier.
Coaching the second-year Golden Suns was a local hockey legend who played and coached in the NHL, Vic Stasiuk. An old-school, coach he led the team to the AJHL final where they lost to the Spruce Grove Mets.
Former teammates from his minor hockey days were part of the team, Greg Kveder, Brad Cox and Darrell Osmond. The star of the team was a small forward named Don Renner, who scored 58 goals. Second on the scoring chart was a future Bronco star and NHLer in Rocky Saganiuk. Saganiuk was a “pitbull,” recalled Rick. Tough and strong, he was an offensive force on the goal-scoring front.
When the season ended Rick took a job roofing and he used it as his training for the next season. As fall approached, Rick was tentative about his future in the game. Still listed by the Broncos, he attended the first day of training camp. Rick quickly sensed he wasn’t part of Sauter’s plans and left after one day, ending his junior hockey career.
“I headed straight to Lethbridge Community College where I completed my Grade 12,” Rick stated. With that completed he then headed to the University of Lethbridge where he attended classes for one year. “I had no idea what I wanted to do and didn’t want to waste anymore of my mom’s money,” stated Rick.
Jack Innes, the general manager and president of CJOC in Lethbridge, was a diehard Calgary Stampeder fan. Jack chatted with Rick about his football future and convinced Rick to attend a Stampeder free agent camp in the spring of 1978. Rick agreed and headed to Calgary. Not having played football for several years, Rick was attempting to impress the Stampeder brass with his punting and place kicking. As camp concluded, Rick and another punter engaged in a kick off to see who would attend the Stampeder training camp in June. Despite performing well, his opponent was perfect. Rick was released and with that, his football career was over.
Following his time in junior hockey, Rick played hockey in the Industrial League in Lethbridge. “I had to quit because I couldn’t tone it down,” Rick stated. Having played for the Broncos many of his opponents made an effort to play aggressively with him and often Rick retaliated. Not happy with his reaction, Rick made the decision to join a less competitive recreational league. At the age of 40, Rick joined the Lethbridge Oldtimers Association where played until injuries from his earlier years in football and hockey made the game too painful to play.
Rick continues to participate in a northside-southside Christmas classic played each year. Tensions arise as do old memories from younger days when the northside played the southside in many sports beyond hockey.
Following his brief time in university, Rick began to look for stable employment. Rick’s close friend Mike Boychuk’s father worked for CPR and informed Rick of job opportunities with the railroad. Rick applied and was successful. Thus, a 35-year career with the railroad began. An opportunity arose during the early part of his career with CPR to train to be an engineer. Successfully promoted to this role, he worked until 2012, retiring at the age of 55.
“I trained harder at 50 than I ever did when I was young,” Rick stated. One of the best athletes Lethbridge ever produced, Rick never pushed his incredible athletic ability. Growing up, the Lethbridge Herald was filled with his exploits in football, baseball, soccer, track and field and hockey. Not able to devote his entire energy to one sport, Rick did achieve success playing two seasons of junior hockey where he played with and against some of the greatest hockey players of all-time.
“I was a football guy,” stated Rick but it was hockey where he achieved his greatest success.
Terry Houlder, Centre, 1984-1986
Terry from Grimshaw, Alta., joined the Lethbridge Broncos in the fall of 1984 as an 18-year-old rookie. During Terry’s two seasons in Lethbridge he scored 83 goals, collected 110 assists for 193 points in 143 games. His scoring prowess placed him ninth all-time in Lethbridge Bronco scoring.
Terry was born in 1966 and was raised in the small community of Grimshaw. With a population of only 1,376 people at the time of his birth, the community was dependent on agriculture in the far northern part of Alberta. This small town just west of Peace River, was over 1,000 kilometers north of Lethbridge.
His father, Bud, owned the New Holland dealership, but more importantly to Terry, his dad’s passion and love for the game of hockey had a profound influence on him. Bud was a star forward on the Grimshaw Huskies of the North Peace Hockey League. Bud was also instrumental in raising funds to put artificial ice in the arena during the 1950s. This rink became the center of Terry’s life growing up. If he wasn’t playing the game, he was watching his father star for the local hometown Huskies.
Terry recalled how hockey became the central focus of his life. Playing minor hockey in his early years in a league comprised of Manning, Peace River and Fairview, his skills developed and by the time he was 14 he was being noticed by junior hockey scouts.
Terry recalled John Chapman making the journey to his home in 1980 when Chapman was about to begin his first season as Bronco coach. Terry was only 14 and uncertain of where the game would take him. Chapman was hoping Terry would sign and join an impressive list of future Bronco stars. Uncertain about his plans, he didn’t commit to the Broncos.
Two years later at the age of 16, he attended a camp in Calgary designed to provide players the opportunity to showcase their skills to AJHL teams. Terry was invited by numerous teams to their training camps. Terry chose to attend the St. Albert Saints fall camp. After being released at the end of training camp, he headed home and played Midget C. With Terry leading the way, Grimshaw captured a provincial championship. As he approached his 17th birthday, interest from the AJHL increased.
A native of Grimshaw, Wynne Dempster, played in the Western Canada Hockey League and the AJHL before playing six seasons of professional hockey. When his playing days ended, he turned to coaching and became the head coach of the Red Deer Rustlers following Chapman’s move to Lethbridge in 1980. Always on the lookout for offensive talent, he didn’t have to look far to spot Terry in his hometown. Having watched and heard of Terry’s scoring exploits, he recruited Terry and was pleased when he arrived at the Rustler camp in the fall of 1983.
During this time Chapman continued to touch base with Terry about a possible future in Lethbridge. Uncertain about his career path - college hockey or the WHL - Terry made the decision to play in Red Deer.
The Rustlers, coming off a first-place finish in the Southern Division of the AJHL, were disappointed when they lost in the semifinals to the Calgary Canucks. Looking to go further and capture another AJHL championship, Dempster was delighted that Terry committed to being part of a young Rustler roster for the 1983-84 season.
Terry had an immediate impact on the Rustlers with his prolific scoring. The Rustlers finished in first place in the Southern Division behind the offensive brilliance of Terry. Terry finished second in league scoring behind Sid Cranston, tallying 52 goals and 103 points. No other Rustler finished in the top 15 in the scoring race.
The Rustlers, a young team filled with 17 year olds, headed into the playoffs optimistic about their chances of winning their first championship since 1980.
The Hobbema Hawks fell quickly in the first round, four games to one. Next in line were the Calgary Spurs, who went down to defeat in five games as well. The only team that stood in their way was the Fort Saskatchewan Traders, who had the best record in the AJHL. Unfortunately, the powerful and offensively gifted Traders took the championship in four straight games ending a very exciting and eventful season for Terry.
During his rookie season in the AJHL, Terry was approached by several NHL scouts. Their interest provided optimism about the 1984 NHL draft. On draft day, Terry was disappointed his name was not called.
With his strong offensive showing, Chapman and Doug McAuley, head scout of the Broncos, continued to show interest in Terry. McAuley lived in Red Deer and had the opportunity to watch numerous games. While offensively gifted, Terry was not an aggressive player collecting only 10 minutes in penalties during the 1983-84 season. Chapman loved aggressive players but Terry’s offensive game stood out far beyond any deficiencies his lack of physicality presented.
Having demonstrated exceptional offensive skills, both Boston College and Colorado College were also keenly aware of him and offered scholarships. Disappointed in being overlooked by the NHL, Terry reviewed his options. Chapman, with a strong reputation of winning, wanted Terry to be part of his “three-year rebuild.” College hockey also looked appealing.
“At that time I was shy and timid and the thought of being so far from home created doubts,” recalled Terry. “I didn’t love school but I had graduated from high school in Red Deer so the academics were not a factor.”
With Chapman’s strong pitch and the prospect of playing 72 rather than 30 games, Terry chose the Broncos and headed south to his first WHL camp in the fall of 1984.
The Broncos ran their training camp in Coaldale with players all staying in the curling club where they slept in cots. Terry can’t recall how he managed it, but he was able to arrange staying with a cousin in Lethbridge.
When training camp ended and the team was selected for the 1984-85 season, Terry was part of it.
The previous season, the 1983-84 Lethbridge Broncos were the top defensive team in the WHL led by future NHLers, Ken Wregget, Bob Rouse, Gerald Diduck, Mark Tinordi and Mike Berger. Offensively the club was challenged in the scoring department. It was also the youngest team in the WHL with seven 16-year-olds.
With the defensive core leaving, the Broncos were desperate for scoring as the 1984-85 season began. Chapman continued to emphasize a strong defensive style of hockey but he pushed his offensive players to produce.
Having graduated from high school in Red Deer, Terry was able to devote his full attention to hockey. His hard work and offensive gifts immediately impressed Chapman, who had him playing both the power play and penalty killing units during the entire season.
Terry was introduced to his billet family, Herman and Linda Elfring. He recalled how much he loved his time in their home. Having a large basement to himself and with teammates Mark Tinordi and Trent Kaese living nearby, he recalled how they spent many hours together hanging out in the basement watching TV.
On Oct. 5, 1984, the Broncos celebrated their 10th anniversary in Lethbridge with their home opener against the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Broncos lost 2-1, but Terry recorded his first WHL point with an assist on a Jim Gunn goal.
Terry’s first WHL goal came three games later on home ice. The Broncos had lost earlier in the week to the Calgary Wranglers and were hoping to redeem themselves. Terry’s first goal came early in the first period giving the Broncos a 1-0 lead on their way to a 5-3 victory.
Terry’s memories of Chapman included his famous boxing matches at practice. Not a fighter, Terry hoped he’d land a lightweight, which to Terry’s relief frequently happened throughout the season.
Chapman also let the players know “bag” skates awaited following poor efforts and those remain vivid with Terry as do many of his famous quotes. One that sticks out is “I’ll bury you so far down, the Hockey News won’t find you.”
Terry recalled the old Bronco bus driven by Ray “Stringer” Austring. The bus didn’t have a bathroom so frequent stops were planned to let the players out on their long road trips across Western Canada.
Early in the season Chapman had him playing on the wing with Darin Sceviour and Steve Nemeth. Terry felt his strength was at centre ice. Chapman quickly recognized this and returned him to centre. Not a speedster, Terry had a gift with the puck that was utilized much better in the middle. Terry led the team in goal scoring with 40. He finished second to Nemeth with 88 points. Named rookie of the year, he was also awarded the most underrated player on the team at season’s end.
Despite the team struggling, winning 14 games fewer than the previous year, the young players were maturing and both Chapman and Terry were hopeful the rebuild was on track and within two years the Broncos would be competing for another WHL championship.
Terry headed north to Grimshaw following the season excited about his future. The Minnesota North Stars drafted Mike Berger and Dwight Mullins in the 1985 NHL draft. Having closely watched both players, they kept an eye on Terry and invited him to their fall rookie camp in September.
With a young maturing group of players the Broncos were excited about the 1985-86 campaign. Chapman was also looking for his leadership group that included Terry, Nemeth, Tinordi, Mullins and Kaese to lead the team forward, returning the team to the winning ways the Broncos had become accustomed to in the early 1980s.
The Broncos started well going 6-4 over their first 10 games. Playing with second-year forward Warren Babe and Mullins, they were a formidable line. Mullins scored 52 goals, Babe responded with 33 alongside Terry, who scored 43 goals and tallied 105 points trailing only Nemeth in team scoring.
On Nov. 21, 1985, Chapman was relieved of his duties – a shock to the entire team. “I had no idea, I didn’t see it coming,” recalled Terry.
He remembered several players wearing a black stripe on their jersey in protest of the firing. Doug McAuley went behind the bench until a permanent coach could be hired. He remembers McAuley telling the team to “open it up, be more offensive.”
Earl Jessiman was hired but he was unable to right the ship. Trades were made in an attempt to shift the direction of the team, but a dispirited group was unable to gain any momentum.
Late in the season, both Mullins and Terry scored five goals in a game. Terry’s came on Feb. 19, 1986 in a 11-1 victory over the Wranglers in Calgary. Mullins’ came five games later, in a 9-4 win over Seattle.
As the season began to wind down, players were aware the Broncos were about to be sold, which further destroyed any morale left on the team.
When playoffs arrived they had to endure a 10-game round-robin format. They won only one game. Injuries depleted an already struggling team and with it, the season ended. It was the worst year in Bronco history as they collected only 57 points.
When the season concluded Terry was invited to the New York Rangers rookie camp in the fall. He joined teammate Steve Nemeth, both trying to impress the Rangers. Without an NHL contract, his time to impress the NHL was disappearing.
During the summer, Terry called Graham James, the new coach of the Swift Current Broncos, letting him know he’d return to the Broncos but he’d also be fine with a trade. Shortly after, he along with Tinordi were traded to the Calgary Wranglers for prospects.
Chapman had resurfaced in Calgary following his dismissal from the Broncos and was now the general manager of the Wranglers. Needing to shore up a weak team, he was excited about the opportunity to bring back two former Broncos, both of whom he knew would help a young rebuilding Wrangler team.
After six tremendous seasons from 1978-79 to 1984-85 the Wranglers were in a state of disarray. Doug Sauter left the Wranglers following the 1983-84 season to coach in the AHL. He was replaced by Marcel Comeau and then Sandy Hucul.
As the 1986-87 season began, Wally Kozak was behind the bench. Midway through the season Chapman assumed complete control of the team. In addition to Terry, other former Bronco teammates included Tinordi, Kaese, Terry Black, Mullins and Rob Krause. The Wranglers in their last season in Calgary before moving to Lethbridge, finished seventh in the eight-team Eastern Division of the WHL, missing the playoffs.
Terry led the Wranglers in scoring with 105 points and was fourth in the league in assists with 77. Playing as an overage, when the season concluded, his junior days were complete. Another NHL invite awaited but Terry recognized without a contract offer he’d simply be used to fill the lineup for rookie games in training camp. Terry made the decision to pursue an education, utilizing money promised to him through his WHL contracts with the Broncos and Wranglers.
The University of Calgary was interested and Terry quickly committed to the program. George Kingston, in his last season coaching the Dinos before leaving to take on an assistant coaching role with the Minnesota North Stars, led the Dinos to a first-place finish with 46 points, one more point than the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The Dinos defeated the Golden Bears in the playoffs to win Canada West championship. They headed east believing a national championship lay ahead. Unfortunately, they lost to the eventual champion York University 4-3 in the semifinal.
Terry led his team in scoring and finished third in the league with 64 points in 26 games. Former Bronco Doug Quinn played defence and along with former Calgary Wrangler teammate Terry Zaporzan, they led the way offensively.
Terry returned for a second season with the Dinos, who were now coached by former Bronco Willie Desjardins. The Dinos continued their excellent play under Desjardins, finishing with 42 points tied with the University of Alberta for first place. In the playoffs, the Golden Bears defeated the Dinos in the Canada West final, two games to one.
Terry again led the Dinos in scoring. Having had two tremendous offensive seasons in the Canada West conference, Desjardins was hopeful his high-scoring forward would continue his education. It was not to be. Now married with a young son, Terry made the decision to return to his hometown and work for his dad, who owned the New Holland dealership in Grimshaw.
Terry’s hockey days, however, were far from finished. Like his father who starred in the North Peace Hockey League (NPHL) with the Grimshaw Huskies, Terry quickly began playing for the hometown Huskies.
The NPHL was a strong senior hockey league. It continues to be the longest-running senior hockey league in Western Canada. It began in the mid 1950s and provides entertainment to fans in both northern Alberta and British Columbia. The high quality of play in the league was reflected in 2004 when the Horse League Thunder captured the NPHL championship led by former NHLers Theo Fleury, Gino Odjick and Dody Wood.
Terry joined the Huskies in 1989 and played until 2016 when he hung up the blades after playing 845 games. A four-time league MVP, he retired with 692 goals and 2,145 points over his senior hockey days. Shortly after his retirement, the Huskies retired his No. 20.
One of Terry’s greatest thrills was having the opportunity to play senior hockey with his sons, one of whom was a goalie. In addition to playing the game he loved, he supported his young sons, coaching them in minor hockey.
“There is nothing better than being involved in a team,” stated Terry. The friendships, the bonding, the bus trips are all wonderful memories from the years he played.
Among all the players who ever played in Lethbridge, Terry ranks fifth in points per game (1.34). Only Brent Sutter (1.76), Steve Tambellini (1.74), Duane Sutter (1.69) and Mike Moller (1.57) ranked higher. Despite his success scoring at every level, Terry never played a game of professional hockey.
The Broncos struggled during his time in Lethbridge but positive memories of coach John Chapman and his teammates remain. Terry indicated he’s lost contact with most of his former teammates on the Broncos, but for the two years he played, their friendship created memories he’ll never forget. “You battle so hard to get there, and then it’s over so fast.”
Retired from the game, he now spends his free time fishing, hunting and when he finds time, he’s on the golf course. Terry works in the parts department at Rocky Mountain Equipment in Grimshaw and looks forward to another retirement in the future.
Steve Nemeth, Centre 1982-1986
Steve began his Western Hockey League career in Lethbridge during the 1982-83 season when he appeared in two games for the eventual WHL champion Broncos. Steve played three full seasons with the Broncos and was part of the 1985-86 Broncos – the last Bronco team in Lethbridge. By the time he and the Broncos moved on, Steve was the fourth all-time leading scorer in Bronco history.
Steve grew up in Calgary, one block away from the Corral where he dreamed of being a Flame. The Victoria Park area of Calgary had many outdoor rinks and beginning at the age of three, Steve spent his free time on the ice in the winter and on the road playing street hockey in the summer.
Living close to the Corral, Steve recalled sneaking into Flames games during their early days in Calgary. With a passion for the game and the skills to excel, Steve quickly moved up the ranks. During his last season in Bantam AAA his team captured the City and Provincial championships. Steve was injured and missed the Western Canadians, which they lost.
Following his tremendous season as a 14-year-old, he made the U18 Calgary Royals team as a 15-year-old in 1982. Steve also played briefly with the Junior A Calgary Canucks.
Both the Calgary Wranglers and Lethbridge Broncos were interested in listing him. Steve explored his options and made the decision to join the Broncos. They were a top team in the WHL, producing many NHL players and their coach John Chapman was held in high regard.
Small in stature, during a time when hockey was dominated by fighting and intimidation, teams were searching for size. At five-foot-nine and a slight 175 pounds, it was skill and speed that attracted the Lethbridge Broncos to Steve.
Steve recalled his first WHL game with the Broncos. Playing the Calgary Wranglers at the Corral, he was called up for the game and remembered carrying his hockey bag across the parking lot from his house. Excited to be part of a team, he recalled John Chapman putting him on the power play where he picked up his first WHL point, assisting on a goal.
Heading into the 1983-84 season, Chapman requested he come early before training camp started to get in some extra skating and conditioning. With a used car his dad had purchased for him, he headed south with his suitcase and a dream of playing in the WHL.
Arriving at training camp in the fall of 1983, the Broncos, still glowing from their championship season, believed in the possibility of a repeat. With the Sutter twins, Troy Loney and Ivan Krook graduating, it appeared there might be room for this small, speedy forward.
Training camp was in Coaldale and the players slept in the curling rink. Steve discovered early Chapman’s expectations centered around hard-nosed hockey. “You learned how to play defence,” recalled Steve. This served Steve well going forward in his career.
When Chapman informed him he’d made the team, he moved into the home of Ted and Trudy Feller who treated him like a member of their family during the three seasons he spent living with them.
Despite a push to win another championship, Chapman made the decision to load the team with seven 16-year-olds, beginning the process of rebuilding despite the strong team he had for the 1983-84 season. Hopefully the Broncos would hang another championship banner in the Sportsplex within three seasons. Little did he know that within three seasons, the Broncos would be gone from Lethbridge.
Steve recalled how excited he was to be part of this Bronco squad. “The older guys took care of the young guys.”
Memories of Chapman’s boxing matches remain. When Steve participated in it for the first time, he prayed it wouldn’t be with a 19-year-old veteran. Thankfully, he squared up with a teammate his own age.
When the regular season began, Steve was part of a Bronco squad that won 43 games and was ranked in the top 10 of the CHL rankings throughout the season. The Broncos struggled to score but were the best defensive team in the league led by goaltender Ken Wregget and future NHL defencemen Bob Rouse, Mark Tinordi, Gerald Diduck and Mike Berger. With the best defensive crew in the WHL, Chapman relied on Rick Gal, J.C. McEwan and Darin Sceviour to lead the offence.
Steve scored 22 goals and was named the rookie of the year on the Broncos. Despite their stellar season they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Brandon Wheat Kings. With Wregget suffering from strep throat, the Broncos struggled, losing in five games to a Wheat Kings team led by Ray Ferraro and his 108 goals and 192 points.
With the graduation of Wregget, Rouse and their leading scorer Gal, a group of very young forwards were handed the reins as the Broncos continued to rebuild for the 1984-85 season.
Steve led the way during his second season with the Broncos - leading the team in scoring with 39 goals and 94 points. His season began slowly. When he headed home for Christmas he had only tallied 12 goals. Following Christmas, he scored 27, catching the eye of NHL scouts.
The Broncos struggled with a young lineup consisting of eight 17-year-olds, two 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old on the roster. Over half of the team was eligible to play minor hockey.
Chapman recognized his young group of players would struggle. He was hoping the return of Gerald Diduck from the New York Islanders would help this promising group of players. When he remained with the Islanders, his loss was felt. Darcy Kaminski, a veteran defenceman, captained the team that grew stronger as the season progressed. Winning seven of their last eight games including two against the Calgary Wranglers, the Broncos were hopeful they’d upset the fourth-place Wranglers who had 18 points more than the Broncos. Unfortunately, injuries and undisciplined play cost them and they lost three games to one.
Steve remained in Lethbridge following the season to complete his high school at Winston Churchill. On June 15, 1985, a phone call from the New York Rangers left Steve thrilled with the opportunity to join an NHL organization. Taken in the 10th round of the draft, he joined Mike Berger, Dwight Mullins, Trent Kaese and Rich Wiest, who were all drafted.
Before heading to training camp for the Rangers, he participated in the Broncos camp in early September. Steve recalled sitting beside a youthful 16-year-old forward, Joe Sakic. Sakic stated he hoped Steve would make the Rangers, paving the way for him to make the Broncos as a 16-year-old.
In mid-September, Steve headed east for his first NHL training camp with the Rangers. He was excited about the opportunity to showcase his speed, tenacity and defensive ability to coach Ted Sator and Craig Patrick, general manager of the Rangers.
Playing in several exhibition games he was confident and excited about his performance. Returning to Lethbridge, he was hopeful the Broncos and their youth would have a better season.
Named captain of the team, he was proud to join the esteemed list that included Bryan Trottier, Brian Sutter, Willie Desjardins, Steve Tambellini, Brent Sutter, Duane Sutter, Doug Morrison, Lindy Ruff, Ron Sutter, Bob Rouse and Darcy Kaminski.
The 1985-86 Lethbridge Broncos never gained traction. The Broncos, in their second season of a rebuild, struggled defensively going through six goaltenders. Despite Steve’s 42 goals and 111 points they were not yet ready to leave a mark on the league.
To make things worse the architect of the team, John Chapman, was fired in early November to the shock of Steve and the entire team. With his loss the team finished with their worst record in Bronco history with only 27 wins and 57 points.
Steve was named the MVP, most popular player, leading scorer and three star award winner. Despite these accolades his time in Lethbridge finished in a disappointing fashion.
Steve headed back to Calgary for the summer. Unsure of moving to Swift Current, where the Broncos had been sold, he made a call to Graham James. James was the new general manager and coach of the Broncos. Following Steve’s conversation with James he indicated he had no interest in moving with the Broncos and requested a trade.
James responded by trading him to the Prince Albert Raiders for Swift Current native, Scott Kruger. Kruger was one of the smallest players in the league at five-foot-six and a 150 pounds. Despite his size, he led the Raiders with 106 points during the 1985-86 season.
Steve attended the Raiders training camp in the fall. The Raiders were a powerhouse in the WHL having won the Memorial Cup in 1984-85. They followed with seasons of 52 and 43 wins respectively. Joining the Raiders for his first season in the WHL was a 16-year-old Mike Modano who quickly impressed Steve with his skill and skating ability. With a strong team Steve was excited about his last WHL season in northern Saskatchewan.
When Steve arrived at the Rangers training camp he played well leaving a positive impression on new general manager, Phil Esposito. Before returning to the Raiders, Esposito and Dave King, coach of Canadian National team, had a conversation about Steve. Esposito felt strongly Steve would benefit from playing internationally. King agreed.
The Canadian National Team’s Program of Excellence had been formed in 1983 with the intention of preparing Canada for the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympics. The 1988 Olympics were being held in Calgary and having a competitive team was important. Canada struggled in previous Olympic games and Hockey Canada believed this program would address a shortage of talent and a lack of preparation previous teams had experienced.
Dave King began his coaching career with the University of Saskatchewan and coached in the WHL for two seasons with the Billings Bighorns. He returned to Saskatoon leading the University of Saskatchewan to a national championship before taking the reins of the National program in 1983.
King was on board with Steve joining the National team. When offered the opportunity, Steve gladly joined the team foregoing his last season of junior hockey. The thought of travelling in Europe excited him. He would no longer face the long bus rides through the cold prairie nights. Steve also recognized playing against the top international teams in the world would enhance his skills.
When Steve made the decision to leave the Raiders his rights were traded to the Kamloops Blazers who were acquiring former Broncos Warren Babe, Rich Wiest and Darcy Norton. The Blazers were about to make a run for the WHL championship.
At the time Steve was unaware of the trade. His mind was far from the WHL. Facing older experienced professionals he was hoping to make an impression, intent on representing Canada at the 1988 Olympics.
Joining Steve on the National Team were Sean Burke and Zarley Zalapski. All three were eligible for junior hockey.
As the season progressed, Steve recalled playing against the stars of the Soviet Union. Igor Larionov, Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov made a powerful impression with their skill. “Playing alongside these players was an amazing experience,” stated Steve.
When Team Canada began their selection process for the 1987 World Junior Championship being held in Piestany, Czechoslovakia, all three players were asked to participate. Only Steve agreed.
After winning the silver medal at the Soviet Izvestia tournament, Steve immediately joined Team Canada for the tournament that was being held between Dec. 26, 1986 and Jan. 4, 1987.
The previous year’s tournament was held in Hamilton and Canada disappointed - losing the gold medal to the Soviet Union. As the team prepared under the guidance of Bert Templeton and Pat Burns, they were optimistic for a better showing.
Steve arrived in Piestany from Moscow and was excited about representing his country. Other members of the team included Theoren Fleury, Mike Keane, Pierre Turgeon, Brendan Shanahan and captain Steve Chiasson.
Canada began the tournament with a 6-4 victory over Switzerland. Steve scored the first of his four goals in the tournament. The following day Canada faced off against Finland and tied the eventual gold medal-winning team 6-6. Two nights later Canada lost to the hometown Czechoslovakians 5-1. Knowing they needed to go unbeaten the rest of the tournament and hope for other upsets, Canada defeated USA 6-2 and Sweden 4-3.
The Soviet Union struggled during the tournament. A younger squad, it was their worst showing ever in the World Junior competition. Canada had an opportunity to win the gold medal if they defeated the Soviet Union by five goals. A challenge, no doubt, but the players were confident they could.
As Canada prepared for their match with the Soviet Union, tragic news arrived on Dec. 30, 1986 when the Swift Current Bronco bus crashed on a trip to Regina leaving four players, Scott Kruger, Brent Ruff, Trent Kresse and Chris Mantyka, dead.
The old Lethbridge Bronco bus had made its way to Swift Current. It hit black ice and rolled in the ditch outside of Swift Current killing the four players. When members of the Canadian team heard the news they were shocked and saddened by the incident. Steve was the only player who had played for the Broncos. His decision to leave the team may have saved his life. Scott Kruger, the player the Broncos acquired for Steve, died in the crash. News of the death of the four hit Steve hard knowing how he could have easily been part of the tragedy. Pat Elyniuk who had played with Kruger on the Prince Albert Raiders, was devastated by the news.
With heavy hearts Canada prepared and was ready to meet a Soviet Union team that was young and skilled. Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny, Valeri Zelepukin and Vladmir Konstantinov were future NHL stars who were members of the team that would not win a medal, regardless of the outcome against Canada.
The infamous “Punch up in Piestany” was about to begin.
The game began with both teams playing extremely aggressive. The line of Fleury, Keane and Everett Sanipass were physical, relentlessly forechecking the Soviets. All three played with a chip on their shoulder and quickly retaliated if hit.
Junior hockey during the 1980s was often violent. Games were punctuated by fighting and brawls. International hockey, however, viewed fighting as unacceptable. If players took their gloves off to fight they were given a game misconduct and suspended the following game.
With these guardrails in place, no one expected what would soon transpire.
Canada’s Theo Fleury scored two goals in the first period giving them a 3-1 lead going into the second period. Up by two, they needed to continue their assault on the Soviet Union. Midway through the second period the Soviet Union responded with a goal to narrow the score to 3-2.
Shortly after the Soviet Union scored, Steve, out on the ice killing a penalty against Greg Hawgood, pursued a Soviet defenceman who lost the puck at their blue-line. Steve pounced on it, walked in alone sending a slapshot over the goalie’s glove into the top corner of the net giving Canada a 4-2 lead.
Within minutes, with Fleury, Keane and Sanipass on the ice, the fights began. Sanipass was being called for a penalty for a rough hit. Zelepukin responded by knocking Fleury over. Keane and Sanipass intervened and suddenly the fighting started. The Soviet coach responded by sending his team over the boards when the thought Zelepukin was being beat up. Canada sent their bench over. Suddenly a brawl unseen before in international play was unfolding. The game was completely out of control.
Steve, aware of the rules of international hockey, tried his best to calm the situation. He assisted Stephane Roy who was being attacked by two players but the entire situation was beyond anyone’s control. The referee and two linesmen left the ice. The lights were turned off while the brawl continued.
The Soviet Union, with nothing to lose in the tournament, destroyed any chance of Canada winning a medal when they left the bench. After the teams were sent to their dressing rooms they were informed by the IIHF the game was being suspended and with it any hope of a medal. Having played international hockey, Steve anticipated the news.
A very angry and disappointed group of players were immediately sent home.
Steve finished third in scoring on Team Canada with four goals and four assists. Only Pat Elynuik and David Latta had more points.
Prior to departing, the team was served a chicken dish. Steve recalled how he and other players and officials became seriously ill with salmonella poisoning on their return home. His illness and the corresponding loss of weight resulted in Steve missing time with the National Team on his return.
When they arrived in Canada players quickly returned to their junior teams. Shortly thereafter, to each player’s surprise, Harold Ballard, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, sent every player a gold medal for their efforts. Furious at the Soviet Union’s actions toward Canada, he felt it was the least he could do to support a team being maligned by many for their actions at the World Junior Championship.
As Steve began his recovery from food poisoning he was approached by Dave King, who informed him the Kamloops Blazers wanted him to return to the WHL.
Steve agreed to join the Blazers who were coached by Ken Hitchcock. The Blazers were a dominant team in the WHL, finishing first overall and led the league in scoring. Rob Brown established a WHL record for most points in a season with 212. His record remains today. Other scorers included defenceman Greg Hawgood and forward Mark Recchi.
Steve joined the Blazers for the last 10 games of the season. Playing with Brown, he tallied 10 goals. The Blazers were ready for the playoffs and hoped to repeat as WHL champions. After defeating the Victoria Cougars in the first round they fell to the Portland Winter Hawks in the second round. In a thrilling series the Medicine Hat Tigers defeated Portland in seven games to capture the WHL championship.
Steve led the Blazers in playoff scoring with 11 goals in 13 games. Injuries to Brown and Recchi hampered the team against Portland. Steve commented he “would have loved to play the Tigers.” His junior career was now over.
Steve’s 1986-87 season was an adventure. It began in Prince Albert, off to the Rangers training camp, his journey through Europe with Canada’s National Team, the bitter disappointment of the World Juniors, his trade to Kamloops and his return to the WHL. It was now all behind him. Steve looked forward to the upcoming year. He planned to turn professional and challenge for a spot on the New York Rangers.
When fall arrived he headed to his third Ranger training camp excited about the opportunity. When he was sent to play with the Colorado Rangers in the IHL he understood, knowing he needed to develop. Joining him on the team were former teammates in Lethbridge, Mark Tinordi and Drago Adam.
As a rookie he scored 15 goals in 57 games under the tutelage of Doug Soetaert and Peter Mahovlich. Colorado finished in first place in the West Division before losing out in the second round of the playoffs.
More importantly Steve played his first game in the NHL on Nov. 29, 1987 at Madison Square Garden against the New York Islanders.
When the call arrived for him to join the Rangers, a dream came true. Steve recalled flying into New York, staying at the hotel across the street from the Garden and making his way into the Garden to make his first appearance in the NHL.
The Rangers won 3-1 and Steve was thrilled to play with and against four former Broncos – Bryan Trottier, Brent Sutter and teammate Mark Tinordi.
On Dec. 12, 1987 playing at Maple Leaf Gardens and appearing on Hockey Night in Canada, Steve scored his first NHL goal. Killing a penalty, he was set up by Don Maloney for a one-timer which he drilled into the top corner of the net against Leaf goalie Alan Bester. Watching on the Leaf bench was his former teammate, Ken Wregget.
Four nights later Steve scored his second goal in a 9-3 win over the New Jersey Devils.
In all, Steve appeared in 12 games and scored two goals. Excited about his opportunity, when the injured players returned, he was sent back to Colorado to finish the season.
Arriving at training camp in New York in the fall of 1988, Steve was hopeful his brief appearance with the Rangers the previous season and his strong season in the IHL would provide him with a better opportunity to move into the NHL on a full-time basis.
It was not to be. The Rangers’ interest in Steve waned. He didn’t play any exhibition games and was sent immediately to the Denver Rangers. It now seemed clear the Rangers no longer viewed him as a prospect at the age of 21.
Steve played in 11 games with Denver before departing. “Too many players,” recalled Steve when he reflected on his time in the Ranger organization. His size clearly hampered his opportunity to gain a foothold in the NHL. Had Steve arrived 30 years later, the outcome may have been completely different.
Steve approached his agent when he realized he no longer fit into the Ranger plans. It was an easy decision to return to the Canadian National Team where he put up 66 points in 73 games.
The following season he made the decision to play in Europe and joined Krefeld, a second division team in Germany. Unfortunately, a serious knee injury limited Steve to only 15 games.
After tasting the NHL at the age of 20, it now seemed so far away. Hoping for interest from an NHL team that never came, he accepted an offer to play in the English League. Ron Shudra, a teammate with the Kamloops Blazers, encouraged Steve to head to England. Shudra was a player-coach looking for offensive talent. Steve didn’t disappoint.
The Sheffield Steelers were in the lowest division of the BHL but with Steve’s arrival and his 186 points in 25 games they claimed the league championship and with it a move to a higher division the following season. Steve recalled playing 40 minutes a night.
In all, Steve played six seasons in England where he played 241 games, scored 356 goals, 370 assists for 726 points.
Steve returned to play briefly in North America in 1997-98 where he coached and played briefly with the Tacoma Sabrecats of the West Coast Hockey League.
At the age of 30, Steve’s time in hockey was finished. Injuries slowed him up and it was now time to find a real job.
With Calgary still his hometown and the oil business booming, Steve started driving truck for an oil service company. He quickly advanced into an administrative role with the company and remained employed in the oil industry until 2015. When oil prices dropped, layoffs began.
Steve was among many who lost their jobs. Too early to retire, Steve decided to return to his roots and began coaching and evaluating minor hockey players. Former teammate Claude Vilgrain with the National Team encouraged him to coach and support training programs for young players. Within a short while, a new career began.
Steve lives north of Okotoks on a small acreage. On this small piece of land he’s created what he refers to as “The Acreage,” a shooting centre for young hockey players looking to advance their skills. He has an area of 1,400 square feet, with synthetic ice, where players learn to shoot from a former NHLer.
Steve continues to play hockey throughout the winter. As he describes it, “Hockey has always been my world.”
Steve met his wife Colleen while playing in Kamloops. They have been married 34 years and have a son Mitchell and a daughter Cory.
Steve’s brother Geza passed away in 2018 from cancer. Steve recalled how important his brother was to him and the tremendous influence he had in regards to life and hockey. Seven years older, he was instrumental in Steve’s success in the game and life.
Steve’s memories of Lethbridge and the Broncos are positive. A great billet family, the experience of playing with future professionals like Wregget, Rouse and Diduck, and the thrill of being captain of the Broncos are fond memories from his time in the “Windy City.”
April 22, 2023
Roland “Rollie” Boutin
Rollie as he was known, was the first Lethbridge Bronco goaltender to appear in the NHL when he appeared for the Washington Capitals on Dec. 2, 1978 against the St. Louis Blues. Rollie stopped all 15 shots he faced in relief of Bernie Wolfe, midway through the second period in a 5-2 loss.
Rollie was born in Westlock, Alta., a small farming community 90 kilometres north of Edmonton. His parents farmed near the small hamlet of Dapp, where Rollie attended school and played much of his minor hockey on an outdoor rink.
While Rollie was growing up, Greg Polis was also learning the game of hockey in this small community. He soon became a local hockey icon when he played for the Estevan Bruins from 1966 to 1970. He was drafted seventh overall by the New York Rangers in the 1970 NHL draft and played 11 seasons in the NHL. Polis would play with Rollie later in his career when he joined the Hershey Bears. Two NHLers from Dapp was quite an achievement.
Rollie began skating on ponds and outdoor rinks at an early age. “My dad coached me and my brother on the outdoor rinks,” recalled Rollie. His brother, two years older, led the way and made it easier for the family when they both played together throughout Rollie’s younger days. “I always played up an age to help out my parents.”
As a young boy Rollie found himself playing goal. “No one else wanted to and I was sucked into playing it at an early age. My mom used to pay me five dollars to play goal as I really didn’t like it,” Rollie recalled.
Not fond of the position, Rollie soon began to excel at it. At the age of 12 he and his brother began playing minor hockey in Westlock. During the next several years his minor hockey teams were successful winning provincial titles with Rollie and another future Bronco, Jim Wishloff, leading the way. Both were scouted and signed by the Swift Current Broncos and would soon begin their junior careers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
Being a goalie during the 1970s and ’80s presented a unique challenge both from a mental and technical standpoint. Goaltending coaches were non-existent, so you were essentially on your own. Coaches stated “stop the puck, stay on your feet and cut down the angles.” Goaltenders were left alone to figure out how to stop the puck. When they didn’t, technical help was limited. Equipment was poor and provided little protection.
Facing these challenges, Rollie excelled and was determined to compete at the highest level. With a late 1957 birthday, Rollie, at the age of 14, went to his first junior hockey camp with the Prince Albert Raiders, a farm team of the Broncos, in the fall of 1972. Released during training camp, he returned to play midget hockey in Westlock before joining the Raiders as a 16-year-old in 1973. Under the direction of Terry Simpson and the scoring of Stan Jensen, the Raiders won the SJHL championship, defeating Humboldt, Saskatoon and Estevan. Representing the SJHL in the Anavet Cup, they lost to the Selkirk Steelers ending their season. Rollie captured the SJHL rookie of the year award in 1973-74.
Rollie made his first appearance in the Western Canada Hockey League for the Swift Current Broncos during the 1973-74 season, where he stopped 31 of 34 shots he faced in the victory. Rollie, in his unassuming manner, remembered little of his first game.
During the spring of 1974, the Swift Current Broncos moved to Lethbridge and Rollie arrived in town for training camp fighting for a spot on the team featuring veterans Lorne Molleken and Bill Oleschuk in net. Molleken had been the number-one goalie the previous year at the age of 17 in Swift Current. As training camp wound up, Rollie was sent to Prince Albert to begin the 1974-75 season.
Oleschuk struggled early in the season and coach Earl Ingarfield felt it was time for Rollie to return to the Broncos in mid October. Rollie was a top prospect and Ingarfield was confident he was ready to backup Molleken.
On Rollie’s 17th birthday he made his first appearance as a Lethbridge Bronco, in a 7-4 win over the Flin Flon Bombers at the Sportsplex.
Rollie quickly settled into the home of Keith Chilton, a car salesman at Dunlop Ford. He recalled being treated very well by the family. During Rollie’s rookie season in Lethbridge he was the youngest player on the team joining two other 17-year-olds, Archie Henderson and Bill Jobson.
Teammates recalled how quiet Rollie was particularly in his rookie campaign in Lethbridge. “Growing up on a small farm and attending school in a small community where his class size was less than 20 people, I was never exposed to many people. I went to school and then home to help on the farm.” Rollie acknowledged his shyness, and how socializing at this time in his life, was challenging.
During his three seasons in Lethbridge, he let his goaltending do the talking. Rollie recalled how quickly his junior days in Lethbridge went. Rollie stated his memories of the game meld into one another.
“Being the youngest on the team I remember Trottier, Sutter, Bancks and Delorme hanging out together.” Rollie laughed as he remembered the numerous pranks they played on each other.
In early December, Molleken was traded to the Winnipeg Clubs and suddenly Rollie was thrust into the number-one role on the team. Rollie recounted how he didn’t feel any additional pressure. “Do your job and enjoy the game,” became Rollie’s motto.
The Broncos, behind the leadership of Bryan Trottier, finished in second place in the Eastern Division of the WCHL. In the first round of playoffs they lost to the Regina Pats in six games. Rollie and Glen Anweiler split the duties in net, each playing three games. Rollie had a 3.49 goals-against average in his first taste of playoff action.
The second season for Rollie and the Broncos was filled with many highs and lows. Rollie played in 61 of the 72 games the Broncos played. The season began with optimism but when the team struggled during the middle of the season, Ingarfield resigned as coach and was replaced by a youthful 27-year-old Mike Sauter. Rollie remembered Sauter for his encouragement and appreciation he provided for his efforts in the net.
Willie Desjardins joined the Broncos as a rookie 18-year-old centre and soon became a close friend of Rollie’s. The Broncos were led by second-year forward Brian Sutter and rookie Steve Tambellini.
One of the more distinct memories Rollie has of the season was Lethbridge native Joe Meli flipping Barry Beck in a fight against the New Westminster Bruins. Meli was one of the best judokas in Canada and was part of four Olympic games in the sport. The Broncos all looked on in awe as Meli took on one of the toughest players in the WCHL and handled him easily without throwing a punch.
The season ended with a valiant effort against the Saskatoon Blades in the first round of the playoffs. The Blades, led by Bernie Federko and his 187-point season, dominated the league. The Broncos took them to seven games before losing.
Rollie arrived in Lethbridge for the 1976-77 WCHL season confident his final season in the WCHL would be his best. The Broncos were optimistic rookie Rocky Saganiuk and veteran Steve Tambellini would lead the way offensively with Rick Hendricks, Doug Johnston, Brad Knelson, John Scammell and Ray Munroe protecting Rollie in the net.
Going into the season Rollie, considered one of the best goaltenders in the league, was rated by The Hockey News as the fifth-best goalie prospect for the 1977 draft.
Rollie stated that “I didn’t feel any pressure going into my draft year. Do your job and have fun. I wanted to get drafted but more importantly I wanted to win as a team. I didn’t lose any sleep over it.”
The season began strongly, but a long 14-game winless streak in January dampened the team’s spirits. In early February when the Broncos hosted Boy Scout Night and a crowd of over 4,000 fans in attendance, one of the worst brawls in Lethbridge Bronco history unfolded. Doug Lecuyer and Scammell fought, and when Lecuyer was ejected, he and Rocky Saganiuk began fighting under the stands. Grant Morin spit on Mike Sauter, who responded with a punch and the benches emptied. Police were called to assist and at one point the lights were turned out in the Sportsplex in an attempt to stop the craziness on the ice.
Rollie recalled how Morin constantly chirped and aggressively challenged him in front of the net during the entire season. There was no love lost between Calgary and Lethbridge during the 1976-77 season.
As a result of his actions Sauter was suspended for 12 games for striking Morin, the second time he’d struck a player in two seasons. Bill Burton, the Broncos’ owner, brought in local hockey legend Howie Yanosik to run the team for the remainder of the season.
Despite the up-and-down season the Broncos experienced, Rollie was selected to play in the all-star game in Lethbridge for his stellar play in the net.
When playoffs arrived the Broncos were ready. With the addition of Darryl and Duane Sutter and the return of Tambellini, who missed 15 games with a broken jaw, the Broncos defeated the Saskatoon Blades four games to two in the first round.
Their second-round opponents were none other than the Calgary Centennials, who had upset the Medicine Hat Tigers. The series was a best-of-five and went to the fifth game in Lethbridge. Willie Desjardins scored the game-winner with less than three minutes remaining in Game 5 to win it for the Broncos.
Only the Brandon Wheat Kings stood in the way of a birth in the WCHL finals. Unfortunately, the Wheat Kings were a powerhouse that season and had the three top scorers in the league in Billy Derlago, Ray Allision and Brian Propp. The Broncos lost in four straight games. Each game was close. In Rollie’s last game as a Bronco, in Game 4, they lost 8-7 in overtime.
Rollie was selected MVP of the Broncos when the season concluded. Returning to the farm he was hopeful his efforts would be rewarded on draft day in June 1977. A call from Max McNab, the general manager of the Washington Capitals, informed Rollie he’d been selected in the seventh round of the NHL draft. Rollie and his family were ecstatic. Excited about the opportunity to play in the NHL, he was eager for the upcoming hockey season to begin.
Rollie laughed when he recalled the training manual sent to him by the Capitals. In July, the Capitals invited their prospects to Ottawa to assess their abilities and help prepare them for the upcoming fall training camp.
The Washington Capitals joined the NHL in 1974 and struggled during their first four years of existence. The year Rollie was drafted the Capitals won only 24 games. Given their struggles, Rollie was eager to impress and felt an opportunity was available given the lack of success the team had displayed.
Rollie recalled his first training camp. During the first day of camp players were expected to run a mile in under six minutes. “I was more nervous over that than anything,” Rollie stated. The temperature was in the 90-degree range with very high humidity when they began the run. All of the players from Western Canada “nearly died” from the heat and humidity. Dale Rideout a former Flin Flon Bomber out-ran everyone while the incumbent goalie, Bernie Wolfe, “didn’t give a shit” and bailed after one lap.
It was quite an opening impression. Rollie was sent early in the training camp to the Port Huron Flags of the IHL. Washington had two farm teams, the Hershey Bears, an AHL franchise, and the Flags.
“I signed my first professional hockey contract with the Flags for $10,000.”
Port Huron was a small community of 35,000 people, 100 km north of Detroit on the south end of Lake Huron. The community, built first on ship building and later the automotive industry, loved its hockey. The Flags had been part of the IHL since 1962 and played in McMorran Arena that held 3,400 fans for hockey.
Joining Rollie on the Flags was former Bronco Archie Henderson and a bitter rival, Gary Rissling who played for the Calgary Centennials. Along with Bruce Hamilton they rented a house and had many great times together. Rissling would be part of Rollie’s wedding party several years later.
Rollie appeared in 58 games for the Flags with Dale Rideout serving as his backup. They finished in fourth place and as they headed into the playoffs they were not seen as a threat for the Turner Cup. Round one saw them face the first-place Saginaw Gears. Former Bronco Lorne Molleken was the starting goalie for the Gears. With Rollie leading the way, the Flags won the series four games to one.
The second round began against second-place Kalamazoo Wings. They won again won in five games. The only team in their way from capturing the Turner Cup was the Toledo Goaldiggers, led by Mike Eruzione, who captained the USA gold medal-winning 1980 Olympic champions. Unfortunately, Port Huron ran out of steam and lost Game 7 4-3 ending an eventful run at a championship.
After a tremendous rookie season in the IHL, Rollie headed home to the farm in Dapp, hopeful his exploits from his rookie season had been noted by the Capitals, who continued to struggle.
When training camp concluded for the 1978-79 campaign, Rollie was returned to Port Huron where he began the season. After playing nine games, the Capitals promoted him to the Hershey Bears. Excited about ascending through the organization, he was now one step closer to the NHL. Rollie played a team- leading 30 games for the Bears.
Further excitement awaited on Dec 1, 1979, when he was called into the Bears office where he was informed by his coach, Chuck Hamilton, he was being called up by the Capitals and needed to head to St. Louis where the Capitals were playing.
Rollie arrived in time for the game and backed up veteran goalie Wayne Stephenson. When the Blues took a 4-1 lead in the middle of the second period coach Danny Belisle made the decision to put Rollie in. In his first appearance in the NHL, Rollie turned aside all 15 shots in a 5-2 loss. Playing for the Blues, was former teammate Brian Sutter and goalie Ed Staniowski, who was outstanding during the 1974-75 WCHL playoffs where they defeated the Broncos.
Rollie recalled very little of his first game but his memory sharpened when reminded about his second game against the Los Angeles Kings two nights later in Los Angeles. Given his first NHL start, the Kings behind the scoring of Marcel Dionne, Danny Grant and Vic Venasky, scored 10 goals on Rollie in a 10-2 loss.
Following his brief but eventful first two appearances in the NHL, Rollie was sent back to Hershey where he joined a Bear squad that finished in second place in the Southern Division. Alex Tidey and Archie Henderson, both teammates of Rollie on the 1974-75 Broncos, were key contributors on the Bears. When playoffs arrived, they lost to the Broome Dusters, led by goalie Ken Holland.
As the season concluded, Rollie was optimistic his first taste of the NHL would lead to an opportunity to join the Capitals on a full-time basis.
The 1979-80 season began in Hershey where he shared the goaltending with former Saskatoon Blade Dave Parro. After playing 15 games for Hershey, where he went 11-2 with a .902 save percentage, the Capitals made the call and Rollie headed to Washington where he remained for the entire season.
The Capitals were struggling and replaced Belisle with a young 26-year-old Gary Green as coach. When Rollie made his first appearance of the season they were 5-20-5, in last place in the NHL.
When Rollie arrived in Washington he was excited to finally have a goalie coach. Roger Crozier, who had recently retired after a 14-year career with Detroit, Buffalo and Washington, was named coach and Rollie was hopeful he’d provide technical and moral support for a young goalie hoping to make his mark in the NHL. The only memory he had of Crozier is him emphatically stating if “I continued to go down, he’d tie me to the crossbar.”
On Dec. 15, 1979, Rollie started his second career NHL game against the New York Rangers and won 5-4. The Rangers jumped out to a 4-0 lead heading into the third period behind two goals from Dave Maloney and singles from Phil Esposito and Steve Vickers. Suddenly the Capitals came alive, scored five unanswered goals against former Lethbridge Sugar King goalie John Davidson for the win.
The following night Green turned to starter Wayne Stephenson in a 5-4 loss to the Hartford Whalers. Rollie returned to the net the following game against the Vancouver Canucks and won 2-1 with only a late goal by Rick Blight ending his shutout bid. With Rollie playing well, Green started him 10 consecutive games where he went 5-4-1.
As quickly as his NHL run began, it ended. Green started Rollie against the Black Hawks in a 5-2 loss on Jan. 30, 1980. He would only start one more game the remainder of the season, on Feb. 21, 1980, in a 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Flames.
Rollie was very disappointed with how his season ended. After playing well he was told that Stephenson would take the reins as the Capitals tried desperately to make their first playoff appearance in the NHL. In 1979-80 season, 16 of 21 teams made the playoffs. The Capitals finished two points behind the Edmonton Oilers, who finished 16th.
Playing almost an entire season in the NHL, Rollie was confident he’d return to the Capitals for the 1980-81 season.
Unfortunately on June 11, 1980 the Capitals traded for Mike Palmateer, who they hoped would compete with Wayne Stephenson for the number-one spot in net. This trade was demoralizing for Rollie who recognized where he stood on the depth chart. It was confirmed when he appeared in only one exhibition game for the Capitals. It was, however, a special game for Rollie, when he played against one of the all-time greats, Gordie Howe.
Sent to Hershey, he had a tremendous season playing in 53 games. He was named to the AHL second all-star team, led the AHL in wins with 32 and shutouts with three.
An injury provided Rollie with his last opportunity in the NHL. On Jan. 8, 1981, he started against the Calgary Flames at the Corral in Calgary and lost 6-0. Nine days later, on Jan 17, 1981, he started in his last NHL game against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Capitals lost 6-4 with former Bronco teammate Bryan Trottier assisting on three Mike Bossy goals, his last into an empty net.
Late in the game Rollie injured his hand. Following the loss, the Capitals informed him he’d be returning to Hershey. Rollie agreed despite the injury. Rollie recalled, “I should have gone on the injured list rather than agreeing to return to the AHL.” With that appearance, his NHL days were over.
Rollie returned to the Hershey Bears for the 1981-82 season where he appeared in 62 games, the most by any goaltender in the AHL. The Bears lost in the first round to end their season.
On Aug. 4, 1982 Rollie was traded by the Capitals with Wes Jarvis to the Minnesota North Stars for Robbie Moore and an 11th-round draft pick.
Sent to the Birmingham Stars during training camp, Rollie struggled and was released. Rollie signed with the Salt Lake City Golden Eagles where he finished the season.
That offseason, Rollie called Emile Francis, now the general manager of the Hartford Whalers asking for an opportunity. Francis signed him to a contract where Rollie finished his professional hockey career with the Binghamton Whalers.
At the age of 27 and newly married, Rollie knew his time in hockey was up.
Now living in Virginia, Rollie recognized the need to further his education. He attended college and earned a two-year diploma in electronical engineering. Hired by a utility company in Virginia, he remained with the company until 1992, doing design work for power companies.
In 1992 his parents, who still farmed, wanted to retire. Now divorced, Rollie made the decision to return home and take over the farm. In addition to farming, Rollie worked for a utility company in Edmonton on a full-time basis for 18 years before retiring in 2010. Rollie continued to farm for an additional seven years before he left farming.
When talking with a former teammate Archie Henderson, I was told Rollie had become the mayor of Westlock. When I asked Rollie about this, he laughed “That’s Archie, always telling stories.” Now fully retired, he spends two months every winter in Mexico and golfs during the summer, enjoying the freedom retirement provides.
Unassuming and quiet, Rollie spoke fondly of his time in hockey. The motto “it’s not a big deal,” sums up Rollie. Many of his career highlights blend in with his memories of the past, so moments like his first NHL game were not as “big a deal” as they might have been to others.
Asked if he’s been back to Lethbridge since his days with the Broncos, Rollie stated he returned to visit with Willie Desjardins following his first season in professional hockey. They played golf at the Country Club and Willie had a hole in one, laughed Rollie.
A knee replacement awaits in September, but for the most part, his years of hockey have served him well. Disappointed his NHL career never unfolded like he hoped, Rollie acknowledged success in professional sports are often defined by seizing the moment. If you don’t produce, it’s over.
April 7, 2023
Dave Falkenberg #5
Written by Mark Weninger
Dave was raised in Stettler, Alta., a small community of roughly 4,900, less than an hour east of Red Deer. It was also the hometown of John Chapman, the most successful coach in Lethbridge Bronco history.
In the early 1960s Chapman played junior hockey for the Estevan Bruins and was a local hero to Dave and his boyhood friend Larry Jones, who also played in Lethbridge briefly during the 1978-79 Western Hockey League season. Chapman, a cousin to Dave, was a hockey icon to many of the fans in Stettler.
In addition, Dave’s other cousin, Bob Falkenberg, played with the Edmonton Oil Kings from 1962 to 1966. During his four seasons with the Oil Kings they appeared in four Memorial Cup finals. In 1963 the Memorial Cup finals were played at the Edmonton Gardens where the Oil Kings defeated the Niagara Falls Flyers to capture their first Memorial Cup championship, winning the series four games to two. Bob played parts of five seasons with the Detroit Red Wings over the span of a 12-year professional career that included stops in the WHA with the Edmonton Oilers and the San Diego Mariners.
Dave recalled attending several games in Edmonton during the Oil Kings run to the cup in 1963. At the age of four tagging along with his parents he recalled cheering for Bob and the Oil Kings. With this close connection to hockey, it soon became his passion.
Dave recalled “growing up in a small community, I began skating on the ponds in and around Stettler at a very young age.” When he was finally able to play organized minor hockey he was soon competing against the Sutters and the Ruffs in the small communities of Viking and Warburg.
As Dave's skills developed, he began to grab the attention of junior hockey scouts. At the age of 14, he attended a Victoria Cougar camp in Hobbema run by Patty Ginnell. Ginnell noticed his play and later he’d have a profound impact on his career.
Playing defence as a midget at the age of 15, he received a call from the Pass Red Devils, a farm team of the Calgary Centennials, to join the AJHL team based in Blairmore, Alta. His call from the midget ranks to the Red Devils was based on the recommendation of John Chapman.
The Red Devils were coached by Ron Collings. They were perhaps the worst junior hockey team in Canada winning only three of the 60 games they played, finishing in last place. A very young and inexperienced team, they had nine 16-year-olds on their roster. Despite the horrific record, they produced four future NHLers in Perry Turnbull, Glen Cochrane, Jeff Bandura and Howard Walker. Four other players had professional hockey careers including Dave.
Dave attended the Centennial training camp the fall of 1975 and was released. Sent back to the Pass, he played two games before returning to finish the year in Stettler where he played his last season of midget hockey.
Closer to home, the Red Deer Rustlers were looking for players and Dave joined them for the 1976-77 season. The Rustlers had a very successful season led by Darryl Sutter and Kelly Kisio. Coached by Sheldon Ferguson, they led the AJHL in scoring. When playoffs arrived, they made the round-robin semifinal with Taber and Calgary before being eliminated after winning only a single game. The Taber Golden Suns and the Calgary Canucks battled in the finals with the Canucks prevailing, winning the AJHL title.
Dave returned to Red Deer for his third season in the AJHL for the 1977-78 season. Despite the scoring provided by Kelly Kisio and Duane Sutter, the Rustlers struggled and finished fifth in the seven-team AJHL. The St. Albert Saints, led by Mark Messier, defeated the Rustlers in seven games in the first round. Dave fondly remembers outscoring Messier in the series.
When the Rustlers’ season ended, Dave headed directly to Lethbridge where the Broncos picked him up for the last four games of the season.
Dave recalled his first game in the Corral in Calgary. The Broncos tied the Wranglers 4-4 and in doing so clinched first place in the Central Division. Dave scored on Warren Skorodenski early in the third period on assists from Duane Sutter and Brad Knelson.
Their next game against the Billings Bighorns ended in a 7-7 tie. The game was filled with fights. Late in the third period Mike Kouwenhoven smashed Lindy Ruff’s face into the ice during a fight leading to a line brawl. Dave, on the ice, was given a major and game misconduct for his role in the brawl. In addition to the penalties, he earned an assist on the Broncos first goal of the game by Dean Solheim.
The Broncos, having won the Central Division title were bounced, in the first round-robin series by Billings and Medicine Hat ending Dave’s season. However, during his short time with the Broncos he left an impression on the team and the fans.
Dave returned to Stettler where he trained hard for the upcoming season. Patty Ginnell was the new coach of the Broncos and Dave was hopeful his brief training camp with the Victoria Cougars three years earlier had left an impression. Dave believed his hard-nosed style of play would fit perfectly into the style Ginnell loved.
Ginnell put together a camp in early July in Edmonton where he had the opportunity to view listed players and veterans.
In addition to training hard for the upcoming season, Dave worked hard with the Sutters at their summer hockey camp in Sylvan Lake. Having played with Darryl, Duane and Brent Sutter in Red Deer he recalled they all left positive impressions on him. “Darryl was a leader who didn’t like to lose. Losing left him grumpy,” remembered Dave. Brent was the most talented with lots of heart and battle in his system.
When Dave arrived for camp in the fall of 1978 he recalled “that he really didn’t know how things would go.” After a strong training camp, Ginnell took a chance on a 19-year-old WHL rookie. He joined a defensive core that included Lindy Ruff, Simon Learmouth, Jay Soleway, Ralph Andreesen and Roger Wolfe.
Dave settled in with his billets Peter and Linda Kish who provided support and encouragement to a rookie in the WHL looking to leave a mark and move into professional hockey.
The 1978-79 Broncos emerged as an offensive juggernaut led by Duane Sutter, Doug Morrison, Gord Williams, Earl Ingarfield Jr., Randy Ruff and Dave Snopek. Despite their loaded front end, the team lacked offensive depth.
During the early stages of the season Ginnell approached Dave and asked him to learn how to play forward, a move that paid dividends for both the Broncos and Dave’s professional career.
When Ginnell needed some added grit on his forward line he’d fill in on the third line with either Kevin Ginnell, Larry Doyle or Kelly Rissling.
Dave started quickly with the Broncos. He made an early impression in a game against the Regina Pats when he had four assists in an 8-1 win and was named player of the game. After eight games he was fourth in team scoring with 11 points, all assists.
In addition to his offensive play, Dave became popular with fans and early in the season a Dave Falkenberg fan club was formed with many of them wearing his jersey around the Sportsplex. When the team headed west early in the season, several fan club members made the journey west and cheered him on.
In a game against the Medicine Hat Tigers in late November Dave recorded three assists despite badly injuring his tongue when cross checked from behind. The following night against the Billing he was named star of the game when he recorded his first two goals of the season in a 10-4 victory.
As the season progressed the Broncos began to emerge as one of the top teams in the league. Unfortunately, the Brandon Wheat Kings were a dominant team in the league, losing only five games.
One of the many Broncos who left an impression on Dave was Bobby Hull Jr. “Everyone loved him, he could skate and shoot, he had more talent than Brett. His curse was his name.” Dave remembered Hull stating to Dave, “what can I do?” Hull was taunted endlessly on the ice by the opponents. “I felt bad for him,” Dave stated.
One of the top scorers on the team was Doug Morrison. “He was quick with a tremendous shot and he was tough, although he didn’t go looking for it,” Dave recalled.
Dave with the added versatility of being able to play both defence and forward had a tremendous season scoring 11 goals and adding 42 assists for 53 points. The most notable statistic was his 234 minutes in penalties, which led the Broncos.
Memories of his only full season in Lethbridge included their semifinal win over the Calgary Wranglers propelling the team into the league semifinal round-robin against the Brandon Wheat Kings and Portland Winter Hawks.
Ginnell made it clear to Dave when they played Portland that his job was to follow his former teammate with the Pass Red Devils, Perry Turnbull, everywhere he went on the ice. Turnbull had a tremendous draft year scoring 75 goals to finish second in the WHL in goal scoring. This season propelled him to the top of the draft rankings where he was selected second overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 1979 NHL draft.
Unfortunately, Portland had more than Turnbull, and with Brian Propp and his 94 goals and 194 points leading the way for the Wheat Kings, the Broncos were swept, ending a tremendously exciting season for the Broncos.
When award night arrived, Dave who was referred to as the “Incredible Falk,” received the most under-rated player award as well as one of the most prestigious awards any player can win, the player’s player award chosen by his teammates.
When summer arrived Dave began to look for professional options. Pat Shimbashi discussed the possibility of going to play in Japan but when Dave hesitated, Larry Doyle jumped at the opportunity.
George Kingston at the University of Calgary was also interested in Dave. “Broadcasting interested me but when I was offered a tryout with the Maine Mariners, I jumped at the opportunity,” recalled Dave. The Mariners were the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. Along with teammate Randy Ruff they headed east in the fall of 1979 with both their parents.
Dave had the opportunity to play in an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins before being sent to Maine, coached by Bob McCammon. After 10 games for the Mariners he was sent to the Toledo Goaldiggers of the IHL.
Gregg Pilling, a native of Lethbridge, coached the team and he joined ex-Broncos Dean Solheim and Rick Hendricks. Toledo finished in second place in the South Division behind the Fort Wayne Comets with 74 points. When they faced them in the first round of playoffs they were swept ending Dave’s first season of professional hockey.
The following season Toledo struggled. Billy Inglis, who had played briefly with the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres, was hired near the end of the 1981 season and as Dave recalled, “he saved my career.”
Suddenly Toledo became a powerhouse in the IHL winning consecutive IHL championships with Dave and former Bronco, Lorne Molleken leading the way. “Mooner carried the team,” recalled Dave. In addition, Dirk Graham and Scott Howson were stars.
After winning their first IHL championship in 1982, Inglis approached Dave in training camp asking him to move to forward. Recognizing his skating ability and his willingness to win puck battles, the move made sense. Having played forward for Ginnell on a part-time basis with the Broncos, he jumped at the opportunity. Playing with Dirk Graham and Claude Noel their line dominated the opposition. Dave tallied 51 goals and 97 points. Quite a transition from defence to right wing. In addition to his sudden goal-scoring prowess, Dave never missed a game over the last five seasons of his career.
Despite his offensive ability and his toughness, “I never wanted to be a captain, I just wanted to lead by example,” stated Dave. Remaining at forward for the next three seasons Dave had seasons of 39, 24 and 32 goals respectively.
During his last two seasons in Toledo the team struggled under the leadership of former NHL star Peter Mahovlich. Dave, a die-hard Toronto Maple Leaf fan, cheered for his brother Frank during the 1960s. “He was my idol,” recalled Dave.
Dave remained in Toledo for seven seasons and was part of two consecutive IHL championships before retiring from the game in 1986. He racked up more goals, assists and points in a Goaldigger jersey than any other player. In 2018, he was named to the Toledo Goaldiggers Hall of Fame where he was later joined by former teammate Lorne Molleken, in 2021.
When the Goaldiggers folded after the 1986 season, Dave decided it was time to retire. “I was married and had newborn daughter. I decided to stay in Toledo and so at the age of 26 I retired.”
Dave is currently employed by Bryllan LLC, a pharmaceutical contract manufacturer. He manages the warehouse in Ann Arbour, Mich., that distributes pharmaceutical products throughout North America. Living in Fenton, Mich., he commutes daily to work. With a residence on the lake, he spends his free time boating, golfing and cheering on his Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Lethbridge was a great place to play, I almost came back as an overage, I’m not sure what happened,” stated Dave.
Ginnell gave Dave the opportunity as a 19-year-old WHL rookie in 1978 and he turned it into a great career.
March 23, 2023
It was a privilege to have the opportunity to talk with Earl about his life in hockey. He spent several hours sharing his story. I hope everyone enjoys it.
Brent Dallyn #22
Written by Mark Weninger
Brent joined the Lethbridge Broncos via a trade in the fall of 1981 from the Regina Pats, for forward Marc Centrone. John Chapman had a powerhouse offensive team and wanted a defensively sound, physical defenseman to support the Broncos depth on defence. Brent filled the need.
Brent was born in Provost, AB, but spent the first six years of his life on a farm near Chauvin before his family moved to Lloydminster. From an early age Brent was drawn to hockey. He recalled attending Lloydminster Border Kings games with his parents and dreamed of playing for his hometown team.
Like all of his friends, his free time in the winter was spent playing hockey, either on an outdoor rink or on the streets. “I just liked to play,” recalled Brent. “We never dreamed of the NHL, our thoughts were more on just having fun.”
During the 1960’s, minor hockey consisted of house league teams that traveled to communities near Lloydminster. At the higher levels, an all-star team would be selected to play in provincials and Brent was always part of those teams. During his early years, he often faced off against Ron, Rich and Brent Sutter who represented Viking, a community 138 km away.
Brent recalled how competitive the house league teams were in the city of Lloydminster. Many school yard fights broke out between friends fighting over who was better.
As Brent progressed through minor hockey, his skills continued to improve. As he began playing midget hockey at the age of 16, his dream was to play for the local Junior B team, the Border Blazers, who at that time were coached by Larry Leach, a former NHLer who played for the Boston Bruins.
A high school teacher, football coach and close friend, Larry Sauer, was friends with Dave King, coach of the Billings Bighorns at the time. Having seen Brent play midget hockey, Sauer helped him get an invite to Billings training camp, which was Brent’s first exposure to the WHL. Travelling south 1,000 km from home to Billings, Montana, Brent got his first taste of the WHL. The Bighorns were a strong team in the Central Division, led by Gord Stafford and two Lethbridge products, Harvie Pocza and Cal Roadhouse. Not expecting to make the team, it provided Brent with an idea of the competition that lay ahead.
Making the local Junior B team that season fulfilled a childhood dream. Brent loved playing with his friends in front of family. They were coached by former Detroit Red Wings prospect Gord Redden, the father of Wade Redden, who was drafted second overall in the 1995 NHL draft and played 14 seasons in the NHL with Ottawa, the New York Rangers and St Louis Blues.
Bob Strumm, a friend of Sauer, was the general manager of the Regina Pats. Strumm and his scouts had been eying Brent during his time in Junior B and invited him and his 6’2” 200-pound frame to the Pats training camp in the fall of 1980. Brent made the decision to head to the Queen City with no expectation of making the team. Heading into Regina on his own, he had no idea where the rink was, or where he would be staying when he arrived. Players were housed in a large dorm at the rink, with over 100 players, each trying to leave an impression. It was an overwhelming experience. After a solid training camp, he was shocked when Strumm called him into his office and told him, “Go home and get your stuff.”
Brent had planned to attend NAIT after graduating from high school, but the invite from the Pats changed his plans. When he made the Pats, he promised his mom that he would attend college after his junior days were complete. The oil and gas business changed that plan as well.
The 1980-81 Regina Pats were coached by Jack Sangster, who had been hired by Strumm after coaching two seasons with the Taber Golden Suns. The Pats were a powerhouse in the WHL, finishing in first place in the East Division. Brian Varga and Jock Callander finished one-two in WHL scoring, and rookie Dave Michayluk, fondly called “Boris” by his teammates, won the rookie of the year award.
Brent recalled his first exhibition game with the Pats in Saskatoon. His parents made the trip from Lloydminster and were excited to watch their son in action. As it often happened in the early 1980’s, the game quickly deteriorated into a brawl filled event. Brent recalled holding on to two Blades “scared to death” about the outcome.
Garth Butcher and Barry Trotz were stalwarts on the backend for the Pats, while Brent contributed 10 points and 164 minutes in penalties.
The Pats lost the Division Final to the Calgary Wranglers despite Butcher’s amazing playoff run, which saw him tally 22 points in 11 games. Disappointed in the outcome, Strumm decided to make a coaching change. Strumm sensed he needed to find another coach to take the Pats to the next level. Sangster was fired despite leading the team to a division title. Strumm brought in Bill LaForge, who started his junior coaching career the previous season with the Oshawa Generals. Laforge expected his teams to create mayhem on the ice. During the OHA playoffs, LaForge assaulted Peterborough Petes coach Dave Dryden and was suspended 50 games for his actions. When the season concluded, LaForge resigned.
Brent began the 1981-82 season with the Pats and watched first-hand as Laforge was committed to building what Brent called a “goon squad”. After a successful training camp, Brent suffered a knee injury in an intersquad game and missed the first six weeks of the season. Just after Thanksgiving, Strumm informed Brent he would be joining the Lethbridge Broncos. Seeking additional heavyweights, the Pats sent Brent to the Broncos for Marc Centrone, a seventh-round draft pick of the Chicago Black Hawks in 1981. Centrone had played 13 games for the Broncos and accumulated 105 minutes in penalties. Centrone was exactly what Laforge wanted. The Pats set WHL records for penalty minutes that season, with three members of the team exceeding 400 minutes, Centrone a big part of it.
Brent was relieved to be traded from the Pats. Despite being a hard-hitting defenceman who didn’t back down, the new look Regina Pats with Laforge behind the bench was not to Brent’s liking.
Joining a Bronco squad, an offensive juggernaut in the WHL, led by Brent Sutter and Mike Moller, had Brent feeling both excited and nervous as he headed to join the Broncos.
Brent recalled driving six hours west on the Trans Canada highway and meeting coach John Chapman at the Heidelberg Inn on Mayor Magrath Drive. Heading to the rink the next day, Brent, Ron and Rich Sutter were the first three that greeted him as he entered the Sportsplex. Brent was relieved to be welcomed so openly by the Sutters. The four of them developed a friendship and relationship that is still in place today. Brent quickly settled into a strong defensive core led by Randy Moller, Vern Smith, Grant Couture, Marty Ruff and rookie Gerald Diduck.
Brent’s first game with the Broncos was a 5-2 win over the Calgary Wranglers in front of 4,678 fans. The victory was marred by a brawl that saw Randy Moller and Vern Smith receive game misconducts. Suddenly in his first game, Brent was being asked to take on a significant amount of ice time.
As a result of the brawl and leaving the bench, Moller was suspended for three games. Short their best defenceman, Chapman needed Brent to take on extra ice time. Chapman commented in the Lethbridge Herald that Brent “was someone who can play tough around the net and what I like about him, is his enthusiasm. He was a team guy right away.”
Fitting in immediately, Brent received lots of ice time and was content living with Ron and Cheryl Salter, who to this day keep in contact with him.
As the season continued, Brent played with rookie 16-year-old Gerald Diduck. The Broncos continued their assault on the league, putting together a 17-game win streak and established numerous team records.
Brent Sutter left the Broncos when recalled by the Islanders at Christmas, and never returned. Despite this loss, the Broncos steamrolled through the league and captured the WHL regular season championship.
Brent recalled the intensity the Broncos displayed. He stated, “The best fight I’ve ever witnessed in all my years in hockey occurred at a Bronco practice. Brent Sutter and Randy Moller were throwing bombs at each other while the entire team watched. When it was over, everyone moved on.”
Marc Magnan was one of the toughest players in the league. Brent recalled joining Marc, a strong Catholic, for many Saturday night masses in Lethbridge.
Doug Rigler, a native of Grande Prairie, was close friends with boxer Will deWitt, also a native of Grande Prairie. deWitt visited with Rigler on many occasions and it was exciting to be around this future boxing great who won the silver medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics. He is currently a Justice in the Court of Queens Bench of Alberta.
As the season progressed, Brent recalled that his ice time decreased, which he found disheartening on a personal level. With playoffs around the corner, and with the Regina Pats, his old team, standing in the way, Brent hoped for redemption.
The Broncos defeated the Billings Bighorns in the first round and received a bye in the second round. Regina defeated Calgary three games to one, setting up a division final with the Broncos.
The Pats were the highest scoring team in the WHL, while the Broncos were a close third in league scoring. Only the Calgary Wranglers had a stronger defensive record than the Broncos. Regina however, was a large physical team that used intimidation to beat their opponents.
Chapman wasn’t concerned about the intimidation. What concerned him was a 10-day break between games. The Broncos started slowly in game one and lost 6-3. Of greater concern was the tactics of LaForge, who sent three heavyweights over the boards in the first period to attack Mike Moller and Ivan Krook. Things were heating up, much as Brent anticipated, having played for LaForge.
Game two saw a different Bronco squad appear. A pre-game brawl set the tone. When the game was over, it was the Broncos who stood out with a strong defensive showing, beating the Pats 2-1.
The series went seven games and the Pats prevailed in game seven, winning 5-2 on Lethbridge ice. Chris Smith a third string goalie with the Oshawa Generals, proved unstoppable as the Broncos poured shot after shot at him without any luck.
With the season ending in disappointing fashion, so did Brent’s time in Lethbridge. The loss to his former team stung as did his reduced role on the Bronco defense.
When the season ended, the Broncos traded Brent to the expansion Kelowna Red Wings. Dismayed by that event, he was pursued relentlessly by the SJHL Lloydminster Lancers during the summer. Larry Sauer had resigned from his high school teaching to take on the role of the first coach of the Lancers. Another great friend to Brent, Elmer Franks was the general manager, and they both were vigilant in an attempt to get Brent home to captain the first ever Junior A hockey team in the border city. Brent, unsure of his plans, negotiated with the Lancers, informing them if they wanted him to play, they needed to find him a job. Oil is big business in Lloydminster. Offered a job with Husky Oil, his 41-year career in the oil and gas sector began.
As the 1982-1983 season began, Brent was informed Kelowna had traded his rights back to the Broncos for three young prospects. Early in the season the Broncos were playing in Saskatoon and Brent made the 271 km drive to watch the game and make a decision regarding his hockey future. The Broncos, expected to be a top team in the WHL led by Ron and Rich Sutter, provided an attractive option. Brent visited the dressing room after the game and rekindled memories with his former teammates. As he headed home, despite the lure of a possible championship, Brent decided to continue playing with the Lancers.
The Lancers struggled as an expansion franchise but Brent was at the top of his game. Selected to the all-star game that season, he enjoyed a leadership role as captain on the team and 30 minutes of ice time a game. Brent led the team in scoring with 16 goals and 70 assists for 86 points and was awarded the SJHL defenceman of the year award. With the loss to Weyburn in the first round of playoffs, his junior career was over. Years later Brent became the first Junior A player to have his jersey hung up in the Lloydminster Civic Center for his incredible season in 1982-83.
With his hockey days over and no serious professional hockey offers, Brent turned his attention to a career in the oil and gas business. However, the lure of the game still remained and Brent began a 20-year senior hockey career with the Lloydminster Border Kings. The Border Kings won the Allan Cup in 2001 and 2007. With the Allan Cup win in 2001, the Border Kings were presented with the opportunity to represent Canada in a three game series in Poland against their national team. Brent played in this series during his final year as a player. Brent was instrumental in hosting the Allan Cup in Lloydminster in 2000, an event that Hockey Canada described as being one of the best ever. Brent co-chaired the event in 2000 as well as 2005 and 2012. The 2001 Border King Team was put into the SHA Hockey Hall of Fame.
In addition to playing, Brent, persuaded by Roy Noble, was a key factor in bringing back junior hockey to Lloydminster. They resurrected the Junior B program and during the early 1990’s, captured four provincial and two Western Canadian championships. Both Brent and Roy were honored to be put in the Central Alberta Junior B Hockey Hall of Fame.
Starting a family, Brent was blessed with four daughters. Wanting them to engage in hockey rather than ringette, Brent took the lead in developing the female hockey program in Lloydminster, coaching from 1993 to 2007. The program started out playing in a league with surrounding towns to Lloydminster. Rivalries were soon fostered. Brent coached his girls’ teams throughout this time.
With the support of Paul Klassen, owner of PWM Steel in Lloydminster, they were instrumental in building the inaugural “AAA” Midget Girls hockey team in the area - the Lloydminster PWM Steelers. Brent described this as one of many proud accomplishments in his hockey career. The girls were very competitive, winning the provincial title once and attending the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary twice during his tenure.
Brent recalled his teams, whether playing or coaching, were able to realize success in the form of league, provincial, Western Canadian and Canadian championships. As Brent described, they were successful despite not being the most talented. Discipline, teamwork and effort were instrumental in their success, something Brent learned during his days with the Broncos.
When asked about favourite memories of Lethbridge, Brent recalled the “bag skates”, his wonderful teammates, and a trip to Sweetgrass.
Written by Mark Weninger
Simon arrived in Lethbridge in the fall of 1977 as a young 17-year-old defenceman with an aggressive edge to his game and a dream of playing in the NHL.
Born in Vancouver and raised in West Vancouver, Simon began playing hockey at the Hollyburn Country Club before moving to the Northshore Winter Club, where he excelled at the game. With his skill and size on defence, junior teams began to pursue him.
Simon joined the Penticton Vees in 1977 as a 16-year-old, where he accumulated 321 minutes in penalties, second in the BCJHL. Simon described his first season in junior as “fighting for my life.” The Vees had the third best record in the BCJHL with eleven members of the team moving on to play NCAA hockey. Simon was offered a full scholarship by the University of North Dakota Coach Gino Gasparini but decided that major junior was the fastest route to the NHL.
A friend and schoolmate, Jay Soleway, had been listed by the Lethbridge Broncos. The Broncos were also interested in Simon, a 6’2” 180 lb defenceman. Simon began exploring his options and discussed his thoughts with Alex Tidey, a former Bronco and North Shore Winter Club Alumni. Tidey recommended the Broncos, stating they had the best rink in the league and were a very well-run organization.
With a friend signing and a strong recommendation on the part of Tidey, Simon jumped on board and headed east to the Broncos training camp in the fall of 1977.
The Broncos were coming off a disappointing 1975-76 regular season. Mike Sauter, the head coach, was suspended by the league for a physical altercation with Grant Morin. Howie Yanosik replaced Sauter and guided the team to their most successful playoff run, where they lost to the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WCHL semi-finals.
Expectations were high for the 1977-78 season. Steve Tambellini was in his last season of junior and he led the way scoring 75 goals before being drafted in the first round by the New York Islanders. Joining him on defence were two other 17-year-olds, Lindy Ruff and Jay Soleway. John Scammell and Brad Knelson were two veterans guiding the young defense core.
Simon was billeted in the home of Jack and Joyce Rollingson. Close to the rink, he often walked to both practices and games. Living on the prairies was an adjustment, especially the strong chinook winds that brought warmth to Lethbridge during the winter.
Simon recalled the long bus rides to Flin Flon, where he witnessed the northern lights for the first time, and the trips to the west coast. During Simon’s first season in the WCHL, the league spanned from Flin Flon MB to Victoria BC, meaning hours on the bus for these young players chasing a dream.
The Broncos won the Central Division title, capturing their first pennant in team history. Simon finished third on the team in penalty minutes and was a physical force on the blueline. Unfortunately, he missed six weeks of the season when he had his appendix removed.
The Broncos followed up their most impressive season to date by losing in the first round of playoffs, a divisional round robin, sending players home long before they anticipated. Preparing hard during the summer, Simon was aware that a new coach had arrived in Patty Ginnell.
With a maturing defence core and scoring led by Doug Morrison, Duane Sutter, Gord Williams, Earl Ingarfield Jr., Randy Ruff and Dave Snopek, the Broncos became a force in the newly named WHL during the 1978-79 season.
For Simon, his second year with the Broncos almost never occurred. Early in the season, Ginnell, in need of a goalie, worked on acquiring Greg Dumba from the Regina Pats. As the trade unfolded, included in the original deal was a 17-year-old centre named Doug Wickenheiser coming to the Broncos. Simon was part of the trade going to the Pats when word came from Regina that Wickenheiser refused to report to Lethbridge. The trade was voided and Simon remained in Lethbridge.
Simon soon became a favorite of Ginnell’s. “Ginnell brought out the best in me” recalled Simon. “He loved to shorten the bench and on many occasions Ralph Andressen, Soleway and myself played in excess of 30 minutes per game.” Much like the defence, Ginnell gave his top forwards lots of ice time and they flourished. The top two lines on the Broncos had five 40 goals scorers and a 37-goal scorer.
Lindy Ruff, captain of the Broncos, broke his femur in Calgary in December of 1978. Simon was on the ice when it happened. “An innocent play racing for the puck on an icing call” recalled Simon. Unfortunately the injury ended Ruffs season. The loss of Ruff meant more ice time for Simon, and he flourished.
Simon recalled how Ginnell loved a physically intimidating brand of hockey and had a designated fourth line forward to be the first off the bench in the event of a brawl.
Duane Sutter led the team in scoring. Simon recalled how skilled he was and how much fun he was to be around. His 75 assists and 125 points led the team.
When playoff’s arrived, the Broncos had a great run that ended in a semi-final round robin defeat to Portland and Brandon. “We simply ran out of gas.” described Simon.
The 1979 NHL draft occurred in August that included underage players as the NHL merged with the remaining teams of the WHA and an underage Wayne Gretzky. The draft was limited to six rounds plus underage free agents. Duane Sutter, Lindy Ruff, Doug Morrison and Gordie Williams, all underage players, were drafted. While Simon was not drafted the Vancouver Canucks expressed an interest in him and he was thrilled the Philadelphia Flyers invited him to their training camp that fall.
Excited about his invite, Simon trained hard over the summer and headed to Philadelphia in the fall, hoping to leave an impression. That he did. The Flyers loved his hard-hitting defensive style and gave him every opportunity to play. Simon recalled how Bobby Clarke told him, “You are going to have a long career in the NHL.” Hanging out with Clarke was a thrill for Simon. As training camp ended, the Flyers informed him he’d be returning to the Broncos. He signed an NHL multi year contract as an underage free agent, excited about being one step closer to fulfilling his life long dream.
Returning to Lethbridge, the Broncos had a new coach in town with Mike Sauter returning to take the reigns following Ginnell’s departure to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Given the amount of talent on the Broncos, the organization and fans felt a WHL championship was within reach. Simon recalled the “the huge amount of pressure” facing the team with the high expectations. Disappointment quickly mounted when Lindy Ruff made the Buffalo Sabres, followed by Duane Sutter joining the Islanders. The loss of two stars and a new coach behind the bench left the team in disarray. The Broncos struggled throughout the year, barely making the playoffs, and were quickly disposed of in a four-game sweep by the Regina Pats, led by Doug Wickenheiser who was drafted first overall in the NHL in the 1980 draft after scoring 89 goals and 170 points.
Simon’s last season of junior would be his last season of hockey. In early February 1980, in Calgary, Simon was crosschecked by a Wrangler and suffered a severe back injury, rupturing a disk. Aside from two brief appearances in the playoffs against the Regina Pats, his season and career were over. When Simon concluded his junior career, he stood fifth on the all-time Lethbridge Broncos record book in penalty minutes, with 549.
The Philadelphia Flyers medical staff examined Simon and recommended surgery. Simon attended training camp in the fall of 1980. Recognizing his game depended on physicality, the severe pain he encountered forced him to make the decision to end his playing days. So close to fulfilling his NHL dream, it was suddenly over.
Life after hockey began with a ten-month journey to Australia. With this adventure over, Simon needed to begin a different journey.
Simon commenced his business career in the early 1980’s as an Equities Trader for a major Canadian Securities firm. Leaving after multiple years, he successfully applied his skills as the creator and co-founder of a large publishing company, growing the company from two employees to over 150 in one year. The company was taken public on the Vancouver Stock Exchange and later sold to a national telecom. In the last 25 years, Simon has focused on Corporate Communications/Investor Relations and the management of multiple publicly traded companies in the mineral exploration and high-tech fields.
Simon lives in Whistler, BC and keeps active skiing and enjoying the numerous recreational activities the mountains provide. Not able to achieve his dream of playing in the NHL, he overcame this major disappointment through success in the business world.
Memories of his time with the Broncos remain. His hockey career, the successes and failures he experienced, served him well since he left his hockey career behind. Simon does wonder though, what might have been!
Jerry Bancks #19
Written by Mark Weninger
Jerry arrived in Lethbridge early in the 1974-1975 season after tearing up the AJHL with the Calgary Canucks. His 36 points in 13 games with the Calgary Canucks, following his release by the Broncos in training camp, created new interest in a small 5’9’ offensively gifted forward.
Jerry grew up in Calgary in what he described as a blue-collar neighbourhood. “I was a multi-sport athlete growing up, engaging in football, baseball and hockey. I loved all sports.” Jerry never fully committed to hockey until he was 18 years old and a member of the Calgary Canucks of the AJHL. Scoring 50 goals in 59 games for the Canucks in 1973-74 propelled a new sense of purpose for Jerry with hockey.
During his initial season with the Canucks, Jerry broke his jaw. Wired shut, he carried plyers with him in the event he got sick. Jerry recalled playing the Pass Red Devils in Blairmore wearing a football helmet to protect his jaw. John Chapman, coach of the Red Devils, called him over in warm up. Jerry, thinking he might say something encouraging, was told “we’re going to rip your head off.”
In mid-September, Jerry headed to Lethbridge with Don Eastcott, a teammate on the Canucks who had played parts of two seasons in the WCHL with the Flin Flon Bombers, Edmonton Oil Kings and Swift Current Broncos. Determined to make an impression, he knew his size and offensive game needed to stand out.
As training camp ended, Jerry received disappointing news. Earl Ingarfield let him know that he was being released. Returning to Calgary to join the Canucks he was angry over his release. He felt he was clearly better than many of those who remained on the Broncos. Jerry recalled, “The disappointment and anger I felt increased my drive to show the mistake Ingarfield had made.”
After an impressive start with the Canucks, the Broncos made the call for him to return. The Broncos were playing in Saskatoon. Jerry hopped on a flight and arrived in time for the game with the Blades. Afforded a three-game tryout, Jerry needed to make an impression quickly. Early in the game, Bob Hoffmeyer cross checked him in the head, which left him dazed. The Blades, behind former Bronco Bill Oleschuk, shut out the Broncos 3-0. Following the game, they headed to Flin Flon, where they defeated the Bombers twice behind a nine-point effort from Bryan Trottier. Returning to Lethbridge, Jerry stayed at the Marquis Hotel. Eating at the restaurant in the hotel, Jerry got food poisoning. With the rooms not having bathrooms, the challenge was getting to the end of the hall when nauseated. Things were not going well! Despite the long road trip, his injury in Saskatoon and his bout with food poisoning, the Broncos decided to keep him following his three-game tryout.
The Broncos moved Jerry into the home of Hank and Lois Lepko, where he roomed with Bryan Trottier. Jerry remembered clearly how impressed he was with this future NHL star - humble, respectful and easy to be around. Despite being on the payroll of the New York Islanders, Jerry stated that Trottier never flaunted a thing. The positive experience Jerry encountered living and playing with Trottier remains today.
Trottier loved to play the guitar and he often entertained his teammates when they gathered for team parties. Jerry recalled Trottier feeling somewhat embarrassed after arriving in Lethbridge with a Chrysler New Yorker. When his parents arrived for a visit late in the fall, they returned home with the New Yorker. Trottier bought a used Datsun 510 that struggled to run and created endless problems for both Trottier and Jerry as they tried to navigate the city during the cold winter months.
Jerry recalled another memory of Trottier. Gary Kirk, part owner of the Broncos, asked if any Broncos wanted to make extra money for Christmas by unloading tires at his shop. Jerry, in need of cash along with several other Broncos, showed up on a cold winter day to unload tires. Trottier suddenly appeared and helped out his teammates. Jerry recalled, “He probably unloaded more than anyone. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Despite his scoring heroics in the AJHL, Jerry struggled after being recalled by the Broncos. After 12 games with the Broncos, he’d accumulated only two goals and one assist. Things were not going as planned. Being a small offensive minded forward, Jerry recognized his production needed to improve or he’d find himself back in the AJHL. On November 17, Jerry scored his first goal in the WCHL against the New Westminster Bruins in an 11-6 victory. As the month ended, the Broncos headed west to play the Bruins, Victoria Cougars and Kamloops Chiefs. Ingarfield gave Jerry the opportunity to play on the power play. On December 1, in New Westminster, Jerry scored his first hat-trick in a 10-5 loss. Playing the Bruins, perhaps the toughest team in the WCHL, seemed to bring the best out of Jerry. Following his hat trick, Jerry began scoring in an impressive fashion, finishing the season with 76 points in the next 45 games.
Jerry credited his scoring prowess to “Trottier and his ability to get the puck to me.” As the season progressed, he recalled telling Trottier he’d “win the Calder Trophy next year.”
Another Bronco that left a lasting impression on Jerry was Brian Sutter. Sutter’s focus, determination and commitment and his journey in hockey inspired him. ”An incredible human being who had a profound effect on my life,” recalled Jerry.
Jerry recalled how Broncos fans had posters referring to Don Johnson, a big 6’3” defenceman as the “Jolly Green Giant.” Jerry with his small stature was referred to as the “Little Green Sprout.” Teammates called him “Jed.”
Archie Henderson, a young 17-year-old, was the enforcer on the Broncos. Despite his size, Jerry recalled how he and Sutter used to torment him for fun. Henderson was chasing Sutter and Jerry down the hall in Flin Flon when he slammed his foot into the door and broke it.
After a tremendous rookie season in the WCHL, Jerry was excited about returning to the Lethbridge the following season as an overage. After a strong offensive finish the previous season, he felt he’d assume a leadership role on the Broncos. Ingarfield began the 1975-76 season with Jerry as the lone 20-year-old on the Broncos. Sutter was the captain and the scoring was led by rookie Steve Tambellini.
The season began well for Jerry. He put up 20 points in 17 games and was comfortable with his role on the young Bronco team. On a trip to the west coast in November, Ingarfield called him to his room and informed him that he’d been traded to the Calgary Centennials with Morley Scott for Mike Fynn. Shocked by the news and disappointed to be leaving the Broncos, he understood their desire to acquire a young Mike Fynn, an 18-year-old who had shown an offensive touch with the struggling Calgary Centennials.
The 1975-76 Calgary Centennials were in a state of disarray when Jerry arrived. Scotty Munro had passed away the previous year and the rebuilding Centennials struggled. Jerry recalled the excitement of playing in front of his parents, but nothing else impressed him. “The Broncos were a class organization while the Centennials were a gong show.”
Playing on a line with Elmer Ray and tough guy Ted Olsen, Jerry’s offensive production declined. Lots of fights and line brawls ensued, something Jerry didn’t enjoy.
Late in the season, on a road trip to the west coast, a line brawl broke out against the New Westminster Bruins. Jerry recalled getting “pummeled in a fight.” Later that night in the hotel room, he and Olsen were watching TV when highlights of the game came on. Jerry noted while he was getting beat up, his two linemates were engaged in fights while the two defenceman on the team stood by watching. Olsen was infuriated, paying a visit to each defensemen’s hotel room, expressing his anger and frustration with their unwillingness to support a teammate.
Bert Olmstead, a former NHL star and coach with the Oakland Seals, took over the team during the latter part of the season but nothing helped. Jerry reflected on his continued involvement with a team he described as “a gong show.” After scoring three goals against the Winnipeg Clubs late in the season, Jerry left the team and began to explore his options going forward.
The WHA Calgary Cowboys invited Jerry to training camp for the 1976-77 season. Despite a decent camp, Joe Crozier released him, telling him, he was “too small and didn’t skate well enough.” Offered the opportunity play with either the Tidewater Sharks of the Southern Hockey League (SHL) or Kimberley Dynamiters of the WIHL, he chose neither.
The University of Calgary appeared as the best option for Jerry in terms of an education and the opportunity to continue playing hockey. With that in mind, Jerry enrolled in the fall of 1976, beginning five-year career with the Dinos. Joining him on the Dinos was former Bronco teammate Russ Hall as well a Taber native and former Golden Sun, Dale Setoguchi.
“People underestimate how good university hockey is” stated Jerry. George Kingston, who coached the expansion San Jose Sharks from 1991-93, preached a structured defensive system that limited offensive chances. “It was tough scoring” recalled Jerry, who still put up solid offensive numbers during his time at the University of Calgary.
The Dinos were ranked number one in the country twice during Jerry’s time playing. They were unfortunately unable to capture a national championship losing to the University of Alberta and the University of Moncton at nationals.
When Jerry’s playing days ended, he graduated from university with a degree in education. He began a career in the classroom. For nine years Jerry taught physical education in Calgary before moving to Kimberley, in part to enjoy the mountains and the activities associated with it.
With a growing family to look after, Jerry’s attention was focussed on his children and their activities.
Jerry’s son Carter followed in his father’s hockey-playing footsteps. In 2005 he played briefly with the Lethbridge Hurricanes before joining the team on a full-time basis for the next four seasons from 2006-2010. During his last season with the Hurricanes, Carter was the captain of the team. Following his junior career, he played 11 seasons in the AHL with Abbotsford and Utica. On March 23, 2013 the Calgary Flames called him up and he played two games for the Flames against the Nashville Predators and Chicago Black Hawks. While his professional career continued, he never appeared in another NHL game.
After focusing his time watching Carter play in Lethbridge, in 2010, Jerry became the assistant coach with the Kootenay Ice. Coaching with Kris Knoblauch, the Ice captured the WHL championship during their first year together. Coaching together for one more season, the team played well but fell short of another championship. After his second season of coaching, Knoblauch left the Ice and accepted the head coaching job with the Erie Otters. Jerry then worked with a former Bronco, Ryan McGill, behind the bench. After one season together, Jerry took over the head coaching role with the Kimberley Dynamiters, a Junior B team.
Jerry continues to live in Kimberley, retired from teaching for the last eight years. Jerry’s fondest memories of Lethbridge include the time he spent with Trottier, both on and off the ice.
Left Wing 1974-1975
Written by Mark Weninger
Stan joined the Lethbridge Broncos in the fall of 1974 and had the distinction of scoring the first goal in Lethbridge Bronco history. Wearing number 12 for the green and gold, he scored 13 goals in 41 games in a season cut short by two serious knee injuries.
Stan grew up in the Saskatchewan community of Moosomin, a small village of 2,200 people, twelve miles west of the Manitoba border on the Trans-Canada Highway. The town grew substantially during the 1960’s when a potash mine was opened 17 miles north of the town. It’s also mentioned in several lyrics in the Guess Who’s classic song “Running back to Saskatoon.”
Stan’s family lived on the edge of town and he quickly fell in love with hockey. There was no artificial ice surface so it was shinny with friends on a nearby slough in late fall until the rink was ready to go. Countless hours were spent on an icy street playing road hockey with friends, often under a street light until the call came to go inside. There was hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer. He was fortunate enough to be part of provincial championship teams in both Bantam and Jr. B hockey in his hometown.
Stan’s minor hockey career led to an invite, in the fall of 1972, with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). Terry Simpson, who later coached the New York Islanders in the mid 1980’s, began his junior coaching career with the Raiders one month into Stan’s first season in Prince Albert. Stan enjoyed two seasons in Prince Albert. They finished first in the Northern Division of the SJHL in his second season and brought the first Provincial Jr A Championship title to the city. Stan described his experience as the “time of his life” up to that point, playing hockey away from home for the first time, enjoying the game and the life of a junior hockey player.
During his two seasons with the Raiders Stan played with future Broncos Darcy Regier, Ron Delorme, Rollie Boutin, Bill Oleschuk, Doug Tetarenko and Dwayne Endicott.
When the Raiders were eliminated from the playoffs in the spring of 1974, Stan Dunn, coach of the Swift Current Broncos, made the call for reinforcements in the playoffs against the Flin Flon Bombers. Stan recalled jumping on an old rickety plane in Prince Albert, flying into Flin Flon to join the Broncos who were about to upset Patty Ginnell and his vaunted Bombers. Stan recalled it was the “most intense” hockey experience he had ever encountered facing the Bombers. “It was an eye-opening experience” playing in the small Whitney Forum that housed one of the toughest junior hockey teams in the WCHL. After playing two games, replacing an injured forward, he headed home to Moosomin, hopeful to join the Broncos the following season.
During the summer of 1974, the Swift Current Broncos had moved to Lethbridge. Heading west for training camp, Stan was hopeful the new coach of the Broncos, Earl Ingarfield, would see something in a 19-year-old rookie hoping to make his mark. The Broncos, having lost many of their top scorers from the previous year, provided Stan the opportunity, and he made the most of it.
As training camp wrapped up, he, along with Archie Henderson and Garth Morgan, moved in with new billets. Stan remembers the billets as very nice people. The father’s name was Ed, a brew master at Pilsner Brewery in Lethbridge. Stan recalled having the opportunity to sample some of the product Ed had a hand in producing. The new arena in Lethbridge was the nicest building he had ever seen, let alone having the privilege to play in. There wasn’t enough time to have a part time job, so having the luxury of playing racquetball or tennis right there was a treat.
Stan’s younger roommate quickly made an impression. He recalled Archie as a 17-year-old rookie who feared no one. Stan often chuckles when reminiscing about a night in Flin Flon when Archie was chasing teammates down the hall in the hotel. He slammed his toe into a door and broke it. Ingarfield was not impressed when Archie missed a few games due to his antics.
The star of the Broncos was Bryan Trottier. “Bryan occasionally took his guitar on road trips,” recalled Stan and he would entertain his teammates. As impressed as anyone with Trottier’s hockey talent, living in the same cul-de-sac with Bryan afforded Stan the opportunity to watch him on occasion play road hockey with neighborhood youth, leaving a lasting impression on everyone on the street.
Stan described his time in Lethbridge as bittersweet. On opening night he scored the first goal in Bronco history and had a very solid first half of the season, playing with a variety of forwards. Things changed suddenly on New Year’s Day 1975 in Medicine Hat during an 11-2 loss to the Tigers. Stan was hit by a Tiger, damaging his knee enough that surgery was required. Following surgery, he was informed he’d miss the next twelve weeks of the season.
Watching the Broncos and the Regina Pats battle for second place for the next twelve weeks from the stands was a challenge and a bitter disappointment. In early March, Stan began to rehab his knee and joined the Broncos on a west coast road trip to complete the season. Needing a victory to clinch second place, the Broncos trailed New Westminster 6-3 with ten minutes left in the third period. The Broncos exploded for four goals to win the game and clinch second place in the east. Late in the second period of that game, Stan was driving to the Bruin net and was about to celebrate a Bronco goal when he was shoved from behind, propelling him into the goal post, which in those days was securely anchored with steel pins. He tore up his already surgically repaired knee. “I can still see that moment vividly. All I could do is attempt to slide out of the way and then I hit it hard. The pain was instant and excruciating, it felt as though my leg had been ripped apart. I screamed so hard and long I think I lost consciousness. I just remember our trainer over me at some point and I gripped him so hard I am sure he was probably bruised for weeks.” His season was over, as was his time in the WCHL.
The Broncos pulled out of New Westminster shortly after the game, heading to Victoria without Stan. Taken to the hospital, he was operated on by the orthopedic surgeon of the Vancouver Canucks. His knee injury was severe. The surgeon recounted that everything had been torn apart and he had repaired it well enough for him to continue to play hockey, but it was never the same in terms of range of motion, which impacted his hockey future. His knee continues to bother him to this day.
When the season ended, so did Stan’s time in Lethbridge. Not ready to hang up the blades, he hoped to return to Prince Albert and join the Raiders for his last season of junior hockey. However, the Raiders had too many over-age players. A few days after having the rug pulled out from his plans and dealing with the Raiders wanting him out of the SJHL, he was eventually allowed to join the Yorkton Terriers, which was closer to his hometown. This team posed no threat to unseat the dominant Raiders. He finished his time in junior hockey that season.
Still wanting to play some hockey, Stan headed to northern British Columbia where he played two seasons of senior hockey with the Prince George Mohawks. While playing there, they captured the Coy and Hardy Cups as national intermediate champions. During his time in Prince George he was fortunate to tour Japan with the team, where they played exhibition games against several teams including the Japanese national team and a team from the Soviet Union.
Following that second season in Prince George, Stan recognized his playing days had afforded him a pretty unique experience, but not a very prosperous future. Working away in gas construction that summer, the RCMP showed up at the worksite one day. Turns out the Nipawin Hawks Jr B hockey team was searching for a coach/manager and wanted to interview him. After two good years in Nipawin he was afforded the opportunity to take on the same duties with the Melville Millionaires in the SJHL. In his first year in Melville he was voted Coach of the Year in the SJHL by rival coaches in the league.
Recognizing the challenges of coaching, the occupational hazards of the job and just having their first child, Stan decided to return to his hometown of Moosomin after his second season at the helm in Melville, leaving behind any further dreams of coaching. He fulfilled a dream he envisioned with cooperation from a very generous and community minded Credit Union manager, opening up a very basic sporting goods store and turned his attention to the business world. After twelve successful years selling sporting equipment, he sold the store and moved to Prince Albert, where he purchased another store that he operated for ten years.
Ready to retire, he and his family headed west to Kimberly to enjoy the mountains. Recognizing the need to keep active, he managed the liquor store for seven years. Family affairs had him returning to northern Saskatchewan to officially retire and enjoy the many lakes in the area. With his wife, they settled in the Christopher Lake area where they live on a small acreage.
Stan drives into Prince Albert on a regular basis in the winter to play a bit of shinny with some old boys in the NHL (Noonhour Hockey League), which is what they humorously identify the exercise as. His summers are spent enjoying the amazing golf courses in the area, boating at one of the many lakes, and working out on the acreage. He is extremely thankful for modern medicine to be able to remain active despite his arthritis and bad knee. The scars on the knee serve as a reminder of some very enjoyable moments with teammates and friends and some very cringe worthy moments of his days in Lethbridge. “Oh to be young and stupid again and be afforded a do over. It appears though that I have been extremely lucky to this point. Cheers everyone”