Hockey February 15, 2018


There were a lot of old hockey stories and fond memories being shared in
Osoyoos, B.C., last October as more than two dozen members of Canada’s
National Men’s Team – and their wives – gathered for a reunion at the
Watermark Beach Resort.

All of the players who participated in the reunion were at one time members
of Canada’s national teams from the time the program was started in
1963-64, up until and including the 1980 team that competed in the Lake
Placid Olympics.

That tournament marked the end of the national team program in Canada as
professionals were then allowed to play in the Winter Olympics and world
championships.

Richard Noonan, who while teaching high school in Ontario became a trainer
for Father David Bauer’s St. Mike’s team that won the Memorial Cup in 1961,
has been in charge of organizing the national team reunions, which has been
taking place once every three to five years over the past 30 years or so.

“This is the 11th time we’ve held a national team reunion,” said Noonan.
“It’s a chance for everyone who proudly wore the national team jersey all
those years to get together and tell some stories and have a few laughs.

“The first reunion took place in Gimli, Manitoba way back around 1974 or
1975 and we used to get together every two or three years. As time has
passed on, we’ve been holding them every four or five years.”

Other places that have hosted the reunions include St. John’s, N.L.;
Charlottetown, P.E.I.; Winnipeg, Man.; Niagara Falls, Ont.; Ottawa, Ont.;
Vancouver, B.C.; Wilcox, Sask.; Penticton, B.C.; and now Osoyoos.

“All of the guys who attended the reunion in Penticton a few years ago
really had a good time and many mentioned they wouldn’t mind coming back to
the Okanagan, so I thought it would be great to bring the boys to Osoyoos,”
said Noonan.

When Father Bauer, who remains a legend in Canadian hockey circles, formed
Canada’s national team program, Noonan was asked to become the team’s
trainer.

He joined the team based out of Winnipeg in 1968. After a second national
team based out of Ottawa folded two years later, the Winnipeg program was
also axed, so he decided to accept a position as head trainer for the
hockey team at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

When Bauer was asked to assemble the 1980 Olympic team, Noonan was asked to
co-ordinate the trainer and equipment manager position and after those
Olympics, he was offered the job to be director of the men’s athletic
programs at UBC, a job he held until retirement in 1995.

Noonan said it’s unfortunate that a great number of Canadian hockey fans
don’t appreciate or recognize the sacrifice members of the national team
made to play for Team Canada on the international stage.

“The success of the Nats often goes unnoticed,” he said. “In the 1964
Olympics, Father Bauer’s team tied for the silver medal right behind the
Russians. The tiebreaking procedure was to give Canada the silver, but
while the bus was going back to the rink for the medal presentations, Bunny
Ahearne, the czar of the International Ice Hockey Federation, changed the
format and Canada was relegated to fourth place.”

The lack of financial support from senior levels of government and the NHL
meant players barely survived, but they wanted so badly to represent their
country they endured often with young families to feed, said Noonan.

“There has always been a lack of support for the Nats from the NHL,” he
said.

The spirit, loyalty and camaraderie shared by teammates with the national
program remains strong and that’s why the reunions are always a big
success, said Noonan.

“A lot of these guys became friends for life,” he said. “They were all so
proud to wear that national team jersey and represent their country.”

The players and their wives who participated in last week’s reunion enjoyed
a barbecue dinner on Tuesday night, wine tours and dinner at Wild Goose
Winery in Okanagan Falls on Wednesday evening and wrap-up celebration and
dinner at the Watermark on Thursday evening.

Dozens of players who played for Canada’s national team went on to play in
the NHL and the vast majority who didn’t ended up being successful in
business or their chosen field of work, said Noonan.

The list of former national team members who attended the reunion in
Osoyoos included:

• Cory Adams
• Gary Aldcorn
• Roger Bourbannais
• Doug Buchanan
• Paul Conlin
• Ray Cadieux
• Ken Esdale
• Wayne Freitag
• John Ferguson
• George Faulkner
• Derek Holmes
• Jim Irving
• Marshall Johnston
• Jim Keon
• Mickey McDowell
• Bill MacMillan
• Barry MacKenzie
• Morris Mott
• Grant Moore
• Terry O’Malley
• Ron Paterson
• Herb Pinder
• Kevin Primeau
• John Russell
• Ken Stephanson

Primeau, who recently moved to Osoyoos, was a three-time national champion
in university with the University of Alberta Golden Bears and member of the
1980 Olympic team. After a brief professional playing career, he was a
long-time assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers before becoming a head
coach across Europe and in Japan for many years.

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