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Facebook post rekindles Canada Winter Games memories

It’s been 44 years since my gold medal in hockey with Team B,.C.
My 1979 Canada Winter Games gold medal team. That’s me in the back row, fourth from left, next to coach Colin Patterson with Saanich Braves’ Tracy Patterson right next to me.

It’s intriguing how some significant event from your past returns to the forefront again out of the blue.

Such was the case for me last week following a post by Brianna Patterson on the Old Victoria BC Facebook page. She attached a newspaper clipping of a hockey team her dad Tracy Patterson played on and his teammates in 1979 who won the gold medal at the Canada Winter Games in Brandon, Manitoba.

There were a few locals in there, she mentioned, and added how the team was inducted into the Hall of Fame eight years ago for its win at the Games.

The piece was reposted on the Cowichan, My Valley …Do you remember…. page by Joy McLennan pointing out one of the locals for this area on the team. It was me.

Well, that stirred up a bunch of memories. I hadn’t seen the actual newspaper clipping attached, but it did recap all the main elements with game scores. I do have another article stashed away from the Brandon Sun coverage at the time.

It’s been a long time ago now, 44 years in fact, since this milestone in my own personal hockey career. Making the Team B.C. roster for the Canada Games was a huge accomplishment since Junior B hockey was strong throughout the province at the time with many players who would have easily gone on to Junior A in today’s hockey environment.

It was a long process toward getting selected for the team which included a camp at Mill Bay, utilizing the Kerry Park Recreation Centre and Brentwood College facilities.

The coaches, including Terry Foreman of Esquimalt, then put their heads together to make up the final squad for the Games. To say the 19-year-old me, playing for the Fuller Lake Junior B Flyers then, was thrilled to be among the final selections was an understatement.

Once the team was finalized, we went on an exhibition tour over the Christmas break 1978, with stops at UBC to play the Thunderbirds and Richmond for a meeting with the West Coast Junior all-stars and won both before hitting the road for practices and games in five Kootenay Junior Hockey League towns. We won all five of those games as well, even though I was on the losing side for one.

In each of those towns, some of us on Team B.C. switched places with our hosts to equalize the talent somewhat so I wound up playing one game as a member of the Castlegar Rebels.

The trip allowed our team to come together and get to know each other since we literally hailed from all corners of the province from Fort St. John to Dawson Creek to Kimberley to Vancouver Island and all points in between.

For Team B.C., the Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, provincial all-star teams were allowed at the Games. Ontario and Quebec could only enter club teams with a few pick-ups and the Maritime teams were made up of university players.

It was an attempt to make the tournament competition as balanced as possible.

When we reconvened in Brandon in February of 1979, it was pretty exciting to be part of the opening ceremonies. Once we hit the ice and games began, it was down to business.

We smoked Quebec 13-2 in the first game to get off to a flying start. I was very much an offensive defenceman at the time but didn’t need to be on this immensely-talented team. However, I did score a goal in that first game. I remember coming in from the point and took a shot for the upper corner that glanced in off the post.

We emptied the bench in celebration after every goal, but the referee soon put a stop to that when we were leading by seven goals, then eight, then nine and more.

After that, there was no need for me to supply any offense so I concentrated mainly on defence. I loved playing under the system of coach Colin Patterson of Cranbrook and we just clicked as a team throughout the tournament.

We faced a tough challenge in our second game against host Manitoba and there was a capacity crowd on hand mainly to cheer on the home side, but we managed to prevail 5-1.

After beating New Brunswick 8-3, we went up against Nova Scotia and were trailing 4-2 late in the game. But we mounted a comeback to pull off a 5-4 victory to end the round robin.

In the playoffs, we took on the Prince Edward Island university team all-stars and posted another 13-2 win. I remember defence partner Steve Unti of Trail and myself playing keep-away during our shifts late in the game with a substantial lead, just passing the puck back and forth with P.E.I. players giving chase and ran out the clock without the need to score any more goals.

That led to a rematch with Nova Scotia in the gold medal game and we were expecting a tough battle. It was a tougher game than the scoreboard showed, as we won it going away 8-0 after building a 4-0 first-period lead. I got an assist on the first goal in the opening minute and there was no stopping us after that.

Our goaltender Dan McFarland of Rossland actually made this a runaway with more than 40 saves. I remember getting a penalty in the third period and the last thing I wanted to see was McFarland’s shutout ruined. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and we secured the shutout and the championship.

It was definitely a proud moment to be on the ice with those guys after the game to receive our gold medals. Mine still hangs prominently in the basement among my sports memorabilia collection.

Hockey was never quite the same after returning home and finishing my last Junior B season. I went on to play some men’s recreational hockey over the years against increasingly younger guys before hanging the skates up for good.

And as Brianna Patterson mentioned, our team was inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015 in Penticton. It was great to get together again and relive the memories of being on Team B.C.’s first-ever Canada Winter Games hockey championship team.

So if you’re ever in the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, you’ll see a plaque there in the Hall of Fame with our photo and names prominently displayed.

It was an event in my life that has always stood out and nice to just sit back and think about it all again when this Facebook post came to my attention.

(Don Bodger is the editor of the Chemainus Valley Courier).

Newspaper clipping about Team B.C.’s gold medal in 1979.
At the Big Stick in Duncan, Don Bodger with his Canada Winter Games gold medal from 1979 and Steen Cooper with his from 2011. (Photo by Marlaina Cooper)
Comparing medals, Don Bodger, left, with the first-ever Canada Winter Games gold medal for Team B.C. in hockey from 1979 and Steen Cooper of Duncan followed suit in 2011. (Photo by Marlaina Cooper)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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