When I was an eleven year old cub scout growing up in Omaha my father bought us two season tickets to the Omaha Knights hockey team. In those days the National Hockey League had only 6 teams so many players who would have been playing in the NHL today did not make the big time. Dad and I saw some pretty good hockey back then.
There was one player named Dave Gordichuk that I admired above all of the others. He was handsome, clean cut, a man of few words and in my mind the most perfect human being that God ever created. As the players entered and left the ice after each period, I was one of the kids who stood behind the rope watching him and hoping that someday I would be that guy. If Dave had known how much I admired him he probably wouldn’t have believed it. He was not on the Omaha roster in 1963 so I knew that he had probably returned to Alberta to live his life after hockey.
Professional hockey players have their last names printed on the shaft of their hockey sticks, as they are special orders from the factory. One day I was walking home from school and I saw a hockey stick poking out of the top of a snow bank. On the shaft of the stick was the name GORDICHUK. I couldn’t believe it…one of Gordichuk’s sticks! To my disappointment the stick was worthless because the blade of the stick had been sawed off and only the shaft remained. I took it home anyway because it had his name on it.
The other day I started thinking about the days of my youth in Omaha and my hero Dave Gordichuk came to mind. What happened to him when he went back to Alberta? Did he have a happy life? How old is he now? These questions intrigued me. Then I went to the internet and checked out an old Omaha Knights program and looked at the player roster. The information was sketchy.
Dave Gordichuk. Right Wing, shoots Left.
Born April 20 1935 in Vegreville, ALTA
Height 6.00, Weight 175
While I was too shy to talk to him then, after multiple internet searches I found his phone number. Pleasant as I knew he would be, he accepted my call after 54 years. After leaving hockey Dave returned to Alberta to own and operate a grocery store. He also served as a Zamboni driver at the local rink! Most important, Dave has a wife, two daughters and three grandchildren. I told him that he was my hero when I was eleven years old. Quiet and unassuming, he listened kindly to me, asking me what I had done in my life.
As I concluded the conversation I told him that he had made my day. Dave inspired me when I was eleven years old and I have thought of him often during my life. At age 79 Dave deserves his privacy and I’ll grant him that but in my mind is still that handsome young hockey player who was and will always be my hero. For me, he will always be 25 years old and he will forever play for the Omaha Knights. Likewise I will always be that kid standing along the rope waiting for him to walk by, hoping against hope that he will nod at me and give me a wink.