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Innisfail salutes ‘The Coach’ of local minor hockey

The late Larry Reid honoured at the Innisfail Twin Arena with updated tribute board

INNISFAIL – Dale Bennett had an inspiring story to tell to an assembled group of hockey officials and fans on the morning of Sept. 24 in the lobby of the Innisfail Twin Arena.

It was about an 11-year-old Innisfail boy and the lessons he was about to learn many years earlier from Larry Reid; the town’s legendary minor hockey coach.

The boy was trying out for his first traveling hockey team; a PeeWee B squad coached by Reid. Tryouts were coming to an end. The final roster would be posted.

After the final practice, Reid sat the anxious 11-year-old down. There was “tough news” for the boy. He did not make the team.

Reid thoughtfully shared what he thought would be the best path forward for the boy to achieve the success he wanted so deeply. Most importantly, The Coach promised his unconditional support.

The boy’s name was Dale Bennett.

“I thought that story would show a little different side of Larry, because his accomplishments would cover the wall in terms of all of the things he did,” said Bennett. “You would think you wouldn't have a relationship like that with a coach who just cut you from a hockey team.

“But what he gave me that day were bigger things than the game of hockey, and he saw the development of individuals and the life skills that were needed and how to handle tough conversations,” he added. “And those things he taught us helped us as athletes, but really helped us more as adults.”

The recent Saturday morning on Sept. 24 was a day to honour The Coach.

Bennett’s presentation and story was one of many. Presentations were made by Reid family members, Reid’s past young hockey players, Hockey Alberta officials and Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay.

 It was also a morning to unveil an updated Tribute Board at the Arena for a man whose contributions to minor hockey and coach development earned him recognition in 2007 from Hockey Alberta as one of the province’s top 100 contributors to Canada’s sacred winter sport.

Reid, who passed away in 2016, was considered a local hockey giant for his volunteerism of more than 20 years in the development of Innisfail minor hockey, as well as being a coach with the Innisfail Eagles senior men's hockey club, and the 1962-63 Innisfail Pontiacs midget hockey team that went all the way to the provincial final.

Reid was such an inspiring force for young Pontiacs players, 13 surviving members of the 1962-63 team got together in 2017 to create the Larry Reid Memorial Coaching Development Fund; an initiative that raised more than $100,000 to provide an annual coaching development grant in perpetuity to the Innisfail Minor Hockey Association (IMHA).

“This (Tribute Board) brings it to the final point of our involvement and the fund is now in the hands of the Innisfail Minor Hockey Association. As you heard their intention is to run the fund exactly the same way we did and it's set up to do that,” said Vern Fox, captain of the of the 1962-63 team, who proudly attended the Sept. 24 unveiling. “It's already generating income for them.”

Candace Schmidt, current IMHA president, said she agreed the Larry Reid fund has provided a “quantum leap” in player and coaching development for her association since the inspiring initiative was created five years ago.

“I would say it's a quantum leap for sure. A lot of associations don't have that,” said Schmidt, whose presentation on Sept. 24 offered the audience a full detailed account on how the fund has already benefitted local minor hockey, including coach and player development. “We would love to see a female program back here in Innisfail minor hockey. We want to start again at the grassroots.

“It (fund) helps our younger kids develop, and we're always supportive of our females and our junior coaches,” added Schmidt. “Without the fund it just wouldn't be possible.”

As for what happened to Dale Bennett’s quest many decades ago to play minor hockey after being cut by The Coach, he made Reid’s team the following year.

“I ended up playing for him the next year for that team, and played for him two times after that, including on our midget team,” said Bennett. “While he delivered tough news, Larry didn't rob me of the confidence and the desire and the passion to play the game.

“And that's a rare, rare skill set.”


Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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