It was an evening to remember for former hockey coaches Charlie Wentzell, John Oickle, and David Gardner.
© Brittany W. Verge Photo
Charlie Wentzell, John Oickle, and David Gardner were recognized and made honourary coaches for the Maple Leafs Alumni team at the Maple Leafs Alumni vs. AA Munro Insurance firefighters game.
The three men attended the Maple Leafs Alumni - Liverpool Firefighters game on Sept. 27 as honourary coaches to recognize their contributions as coaches of local hockey teams. All three men played and coached for many years and are now all in their 70s.
Wentzell started playing hockey when he was a small child out on ponds with his friends long before an arena was built. His very first hockey sweater was the New York Rangers, where his allegiance still lies today. He played in a league when the Queens Memorial Arena was built as well. He coached for over 25 years.
"We made due with what we had and we had a lot of fun," says Wentzell.
Wentzell started coaching the first year the rink opened when his eldest son Courtney was seven. Both of his sons played hockey and Wentzell was involved in both minor hockey and senior hockey. Oickle started his time coaching with the junior leagues.
In the 1970s the Mosher & Rawding Bruins senior hockey team began and Gardner and Wentzell coached that group as well.
"David was an extremely good hockey player and he started playing junior way back. He probably, he almost made the NHL and he came along and said he'd help out coaching," says Wentzell.
The Bruins were a successful team and also helped out in the community doing volunteer work.
Gardner continued to play hockey throughout his life. He played junior hockey throughout Ontario and attempted to get on one of the farm teams for the Maple Leafs. When he went to Dalhousie University to take dentistry he played hockey for the university as well as football. He practiced dentistry in some Northern areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. Gardner still plays on a gentlemen's team.
All three men expressed their gratitude for being chosen as the honourary coaches. The three were recognized at the game and Gardner and Wentzell joined the Leafs on the bench throughout the game. Oickle requires a wheelchair and was unfortunately not able to join the other two men behind the Maple Leafs bench. Lots of autographs were signed and the men met all the players.
"Hockey is a sport that bonds people together in my opinion that no other sport bonds. You become like a family, it's great," says Wentzell.