April 22nd, 2024

Retired prof launches sequel to hockey book

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on February 28, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Gord Hunter filled 40 chapters of one book in about year. His sequel, featuring more stories written by hockey people with a local connection, has 15 chapters but took almost twice that long to compile.
On Monday night, however, retired University of Lethbridge professor Hunter launched the book in front of an attentive audience of contributors and others and made a donation to KidSport, an organization that provides grants to help cover the costs of registration fees so kids 18 and under can play a season of the sport of their choice.
First published in 2015, the original instalment of “The Older I Get the Better I Was” features Lethbridge area residents and former colleagues of Hunter writing about their experiences in the game widely considered to be Canada’s national pastime.
Now former goaltender Hunter, a Ph.D. and Professor Emeritus at the U of L, has his unveiled the sequel which is available at the university bookstore and Analog Books downtown.
The title of “The Older I Get” came from a line he stole from golfing great Lee Trevino.
His first book had chapters featuring the stories of people including Rajko Dodic, Clint Dunford, Mikko Makela, Cheryl Neufeld, Brook Paisley, Mark Campbell, the mom of former Hurricane Zack Stringer and Hunter himself. It also featured a chapter written about Vic Stasiuk.
The second instalment also features a diverse range of authors including Mark Weninger, who has penned an in-depth and detailed book about the history of the Lethbridge Broncos. It also includes chapters by Richard ‘Dick’ Gibson, Neil Heaton, Neil Fraser, Dan Kordikowski, Hurricanes timekeeper and hockey mom Verna Mabin, Darryl and Donna Graham, Brent Churchward, George Allen, Alex Engel, Andy McIntyre, Danielle McIntyre, James Sinclair and Jesse Zimmer.
Some of the chapter writers were on hand at Hudson’s Tap House to celebrate the event and spoke briefly about their own contributions.
Since retiring, Hunter has written eight books. Some contributors didn’t actually play hockey which was fine with Hunter; he just wanted their experiences including taking kids to games and practices.
Genny Hunter-Barr, board chair of KidSport Lethbridge and Taber, told the gathering that Hunter, being “an amazing person,” donates proceeds from his books to KidSport to help local kids from Coalhurst to Taber, to Picture Butte as well as Lethbridge.
“I do want to thank Gordon for the work he’s done and everybody who wrote a chapter,” Hunter-Barr said, noting KidSport is a local vehicle that helps local kids.
Engel, originally from Brooks, was approached by Hunter’s wife 2.5 years ago who asked him if he was interested in writing a chapter and he said “sure, that sounds like a fun opportunity.” After emailing and some procrastinating, the chapter was done, said Engel, who is a Masters student at the U of L studying kinesiology.
His journey in hockey took him everywhere, he said. He played against Lethbridge teams growing up before playing junior hockey across Canada. He’s currently involved “kind of in and out of coaching” with the Taber AA Golden Suns program and he has done some refereeing, as well.
“Hockey’s a great sport and it brings communities together,” he said.
Fraser said it was great to go back and think about his days of being a referee.
“Hopefully, there’s some fun stories,” he said recalling being escorted out of an arena by police and having garbage cans thrown at him.
Gibson thanked a friend who sent him an email about Hunter “who I had no clue about.”
Gibson has been involved in hockey since he came to Lethbridge in 1975, first with the Broncos, CHEC Radio and the Hurricanes.
“I even coached minor hockey as well,” said Gibson, who is the crew chief of the city’s off-ice officials.
Heaton, of the Interfaith Food Bank Society, got to know Hunter from that society where the retired professor was on the board.
Heaton didn’t start playing hockey until his 20s and his chapter is about the friendships he developed over the years, the good times and the support of his organization for KidSport.
Mabin said she became a hockey mom 17 years ago then found herself as a university student with three kids. She started time-keeping for mens hockey until late at night and was on the board of Lethbridge minor hockey. One son is playing his final year of Junior A in Saskatchewan, she said.
Her chapter is about her experiences. She knows Gibson who suggested she became timekeeper for the Hurricanes and he told her about Hunter.
Sinclair, a native of Fernie, B.C., talked about his time with the Lethbridge Broncos and after seeing the article in The Herald about Hunter’s book, he thought it was an opportunity to tell his stories.
His claim to fame, he said, was fighting Mark Messier when Sinclair played his first game for the Taber Golden Suns in the Alberta Junior Hockey Association.
He recalled Messier dominating the game and giving some hard hits so he decided to see if his opponent could take a hit himself.
Sinclair knocked Messier into the boards, they shoved each other, dropped the gloves “and he just wailed on me,” Sinclair said to laughs, detailing how he ended up with a fat lip and a welt under his eye, using an ice pack in the penalty box to keep down the swelling so Messier wouldn’t know he’d been hurt.
Weninger said he got to know Hunter after reading his first “The Older I Get” book.
COVID hit and he decided to write a book himself. He’d never written one before but Weninger, who had long been interested in the Broncos, put one together, interviewing numerous former players.
“Gord was kind of a mentor,” he recalled with Hunter helping to guide him through the process.
“The game for me has always been a part of my life, not that I ever played it at a high level. I loved the game and I still play it. And it’s also the journey, more probably about my kids,” said Weninger, who had three children play the game, two who played for U.S. college teams.
“This is a story about their journey and my journey as a parent with them. It’s been a lot of fun.”

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