2017 nmt reunion
Together again
Former members of Canada’s National Men’s Team gathered in southern British Columbia last fall for their 11th reunion
Keith Lacey – Osoyoos Times
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February 14, 2018
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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.

For more information:

Vacant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

Spencer Sharkey
Coordinator, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4567 / 905-906-5327 (mobile)
ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

 

Katie Macleod
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427 / 403-612-2893 (mobile)
kmacleod@hockeycanada.ca

 

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