Ice Chips & Canoe Quips

Aurel Fox-Recollet of Wiikwemkoong is pictured with the legendary Walter Gretzky at an October 18, 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs game.

Remembering Walter

Last week, one of the most recognized hockey Dads in Canada died. Walter Gretzky was 82 and had been one of the most recognizable Dads for close to 60 years. He now famously made a rink for his kids at their Brantford home every winter and it was where Wayne honed his skills at the age of three. 

Walter tirelessly maintained his rinks so his children could develop their skating and puck handling quickly, as outdoor rinks tend to demand. This past Saturday, Hockey Night in Canada honored Walter by having thousands of people send in pictures of their own outside arenas under the hashtag ‘Walter’s Rinks.’

Walter was a huge hockey fan himself and studied the game and tried to instill his enthusiasm and knowledge to his kids and Wayne just happened to excel. Walter had lots of game theory that he passed on to Wayne. One piece of advice that is often attributed as a Wayne quote was, “don’t skate where the puck was, skate to where it is going.” This quote has since been used by everyone from house league coaches up to Fortune 500 executives down on Wall Street.

During the game on Saturday, one of the announcers said that everyone had a picture of them with Walter. Part of the reason was because he was Wayne’s Dad and watched Wayne play thousands of games but Walter also went farther by hosting fundraisers and always had the patience for the long line of fans. Even a look through your social media friends you will see many people you know who got to meet this generous man.

Part of Walter’s identity will always be the ubiquitous backyard rink and what a great thing to be known by. Many of us, myself included, benefitted from our hockey Dads (and Moms) who went out during the coldest part of the night to get a couple of good floods in so it was ready for us the next day. Everyone can also relate finding a place to hide when you left a puck to melt in on a sunny day!

Active Assiginack!

The Manitowaning Arena was fortunate to continue to run hockey practices in all six divisions and some of the Panther players and kids from other associations joined them. Recreation director Jackie White was so pleased to say, “it was the most amazing thing seeing three coaches from house league and Panthers and 20 players on the ice (still at the time in orange zone so it was allowed). Kids from Manitowaning, Panthers and Mindemoya were all practicing and all having the best time. While COVID did a number on the world, the opportunity for hockey to move around like this was truly wonderful. For some I think the love of hockey came back, not the winning or losing but simply playing the game.” Amen.

Following red zone protocols they are running kids dance, and just started adult and senior dance classes with registration open now. Yoga is once again starting up this spring, so stay tuned for that.

Heaven’s Gate Trail property fundraising update

The Fundraising by the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC) is going quite well, according to Cathy Jeffery who, along with her husband Dr. Roy Jeffery, have generously vowed to match up to $250,000 of donations to buy the important Heaven’s Gate Trail land. The EBC treasurer told Cathy, “Manitoulin accounts for about 15 percent of the donors—impressive for 12,000 residents.” 

We are hearing all sorts of heartwarming stories about how important people think it is to preserve the property. Please help if you can. Check out the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy website.

A good sport is good for sports.