Norwood celebrates 50 years of ice sports
Todd Browning, Ray Bourque, Bobby Hull on hand for day of special events
Long before Brad Walst became a rock star in Three Days Grace he aspired to be a hockey player growing up in Norwood minor hockey.
A day after a sold-out show at Oshawa’s Tribute Communities Centre Walst took advantage of a three-day break in their Canadian tour to take in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Norwood minor hockey and the Norwood & District Skating Club. Walst’s three sons play minor hockey in Norwood and they took in the Boston Bruins’ Alumni game against Norwood Hornets Alumni which highlighted weekend activities at the Asphodel-Norwood Community Centre.
“It’s funny because all the hockey players I meet now from the NHL all want to be rock stars and all the rock stars want to be hockey players,” said Walst. “I still love to get out and play and to watch the game.
“I played all the way up until juvenile and then I started playing too much music,” he said. “It’s a great town and a close-knit community.”
A star-studded crew helped Norwood celebrate its anniversary. In addition to Ray Bourque and the Bruins’ alumni, hockey legend Bobby Hull was guest speaker at a Saturday luncheon. Figure skating champions Kurt Browning, Nam Nguyen and Alissa Czisny participated in figure skating activities on Sunday.
“We had Kurt Browning here three years ago,” said Bernadette Vanderhorst, in her 33rd year coaching with the club. “He has a fantastic personality, very personable. It’s kind of like having your big brother come and hang out with you for the day.”
The club was initiated by some mothers who wanted to provide a learn-to-skate program and later added figure skating. While a lot of small-town clubs have folded over time, Norwood continues to go strong with nearly 90 skaters and eight coaches.
“We have an outstanding base of volunteers on our executive who are the core to making sure our club runs well,” said Vanderhorst. “We have eight coaches on staff and four or five of them are university or college students who skated with our club. It’s like a succession plan. We work with them and encourage them to get certification. Some clubs struggle to find coaches but we’ve kind of taken that in-house.”
Mike Lytle was six when he started playing minor hockey in Norwood 48 years ago. A lot has changed since those early days, he said.
Players on the Hornets rep teams from novice to peewee also played in a Saturday morning house league which combined all three age groups. “They were the Original Six teams and the sevenyear-olds played against the 12year-olds,” said Lytle. “We got extra ice time that way. It was pretty neat. A five-year gap is pretty substantial nowadays. I think it was more beneficial to the young guys, for sure.”
Back then players from Norwood weren’t allowed to go to Peterborough to play AAA.
“Once they put regional hockey in it kind of took away from the small-town hockey,” said Lytle. “Havelock had good teams and Hastings and Campbellford and it was quite a battle back then. Nowadays, the good players get taken away from the small towns. And there aren’t as many kids playing, either.”
In a packed ANCC lobby, Tim Klompmaker, a past president of Norwood minor hockey, said it was great to see so many people he hadn’t seen in years.
“It’s great to see those kids who went through the system and find out what they are doing today,” said Klompmaker. “It’s also a great opportunity to give back to minor hockey. It’s a great community.”
His greatest memory is of the commitment the community had to its minor sports and the efforts to build the ANCC.
“When there were playoff games and you got into the finals the stands were full. The community supported the organization tremendously,” he said.
Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins Alumni greets young hockey players during a break against the Norwood Hornets Alumni on Saturday.