Rota rel­ish­ing re­turn to home turf

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff

Not sure what Lyn Hall is up to this morn­ing but the un­of­fi­cial ‘Mayor of P.G.’ plans on tee­ing off in the 12th Com­mon­wealth Cup golf tour­na­ment at Aberdeen Glen.

Darcy Rota is known by that nick­name among his bud­dies with the Van­cou­ver Canucks alumni and a group of them will be among the 150 golfers tak­ing part in the event to raise money for the United Way of North­ern B.C.

“For me it’s a chance to come back to Prince George, which I’ve al­ways con­sid­ered my home,” said Rota. “When peo­ple ask where I was raised I al­ways say Prince George. It’s al­ways been very im­por­tant to me and my fam­ily.”

Rota, 66, was born in Van­cou­ver in 1953 but moved to Prince George when he was 11 and spent his for­ma­tive years in the city un­til he left to play ju­nior hockey in the Western Canada Ju­nior Hockey League for the Ed­mon­ton Oil Kings, af­ter a year of ju­nior B with the Prince George Texaco Chiefs. He went right from ju­nior to the Chicago Black Hawks, who drafted him 13th over­all in 1973 and played 13 NHL sea­sons – six with the ‘Hawks, two with the At­lanta Flames and the last five with the Canucks.

Rota’s fa­ther Ralph Rota was a part­ner with Stan Wet­t­laufer in a car deal­er­ship in the city, and Darcy and his brother Brad still own com­mer­cial prop­er­ties in P.G. with Wet­t­laufer’s son Bill. Ralph and his wife Joyce lived in Prince George un­til they moved to White Rock in 1984. Both have since passed away.

Darcy dis­cov­ered his love for golf when he was 12, along with his brother Brad at Prince George Golf and Curl­ing Club, where their par­ents used to go often. He played golf through­out his hockey ca­reer and now as a mem­ber of Van­cou­ver Golf Club his hand­i­cap rarely strays be­yond two or three. Rota had knee re­place­ment surgery a year ago which kept him off the course for a few weeks but he’s back to his old sharp-shoot­ing self again head­ing into to­day’s tour­na­ment, which was re­vived last year af­ter a six-year hia­tus.

“I’ve been up a cou­ple times for it and our alumni al­ways gets treated first class,” said Rota. “It’s com­pletely sold out and there’s a lot of ex­cite­ment about the event. Giv­ing back is al­ways im­por­tant and it’s go­ing to be a great cou­ple days while our group’s there.

“This is spe­cial year to come back to Prince George. Fifty years ago the triple-A team I was on, the midget Kings, won the B.C. midget cham­pi­onship. That was the year the Coli­seum was con­demned (be­cause the roof was deemed un­safe) and we were host­ing, so we had to play the midget cham­pi­onship in Van­der­hoof and we beat Trail for the cham­pi­onship.”

The Canuck Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion is start­ing a new schol­ar­ship for the Cari­boo re­gion un­der Rota’s name – a $1,000 an­nual award handed out by Hockey BC to a de­serv­ing high school stu­dent, male or fe­male, who also plays hockey. Sim­i­lar schol­ar­ship pro­grams will be es­tab­lished in four other re­gions of the prov­ince which com­mem­o­rate for­mer Canucks, in­clud­ing North­west (Dan Hamhuis), Van­cou­ver Is­land (Wil­lie Mitchell), Koote­nays (Caesar Ma­ni­ago) and the Okana­gan (Doug Lid­ster).

For­mer Canuck de­fence­man Den­nis Kearns is also en­tered in to­day’s tour­na­ment. Kearns loves golf but con­sid­ers him­self a recre­ational player, nowhere near as skilled on the course as Rota.

“I re­ally like the game but I’m not good enough to ever get mad,” Kearns said. “I have fun. I know I’ll have the odd par and some disas­ters but it doesn’t up­set me.

“Darcy’s a player, he’s very steady. He hits it out of the mid­dle of the club­face. He’s a real nice player, un­like my­self or Garry Mon­a­han. The rest of us are plumbers com­pared to Darcy.”

Rota, Kearns and Mon­a­han, along with Den­nis Verver­gaert, Ed Ha­toum and Garry Mon­a­han, are the for­mer Canucks in­volved in the best-ball tour­na­ment, which be­gins at 10 a.m. with a shot­gun start. For­mer BCTV sports­caster Bernie Pas­call will em­cee the tour­na­ment fes­tiv­i­ties.

Goalie Richard Brodeur, who back­stopped the Canucks’ first run to the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal in 1982, was ini­tially on the list of Com­mon­wealth Cup golfers but was a late scratch. Af­ter he re­tired from hockey in 1989, Brodeur turned his full-time at­ten­tions to oil paint­ing, fo­cus­ing on out­door hockey rink scenes. He sent an orig­i­nal paint­ing with a hockey theme to Prince George, which will be auc­tioned to­day.

Kearns, a five-foot-eight, 182-pound na­tive of Kingston, Ont., played 10 sea­sons with the Canucks, join­ing them in their second sea­son in the NHL in 197172, but missed out on the Canucks’ big play­off run in ’82 when he lost his job on the blue­line head­ing into that sea­son. When asked what ended his ca­reer, Kearns re­sponded: “Harry Neale.

“He and I didn’t get along and the coach is the boss. I thought I could have played an­other few years but he didn’t, so that was it.

“That’s happened to a lot bet­ter play­ers than me. In fair­ness to Harry Neale, the NHL at that time was look­ing for play­ers who were big and strong and could fight and were phys­i­cal to com­pete with the Philadel­phia Fly­ers and I just wasn’t that type of player. My style prob­a­bly would have fit bet­ter in to­day’s hockey than the ’70’s and ’80s. I tell peo­ple I wore glasses only for read­ing and fight­ing.”

CIT­I­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

Van­cou­ver Canucks alumni, Com­mon­wealth Cup or­ga­niz­ers and spon­sors, along with Mayor Lyn Hall raised a flag Mon­day to cel­e­brate the event that goes to­day at Aberdeen Glen.

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