Every once and awhile a team comes together at the right time, with the right mix and the right leadership and history is made.
Such was the case in 1979 when a group of young hockey players were selected to represent B.C. at the Canada Winter Games in Brandon, Man.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
This weekend that team, which includes Rossland’s Barry Zanier, a forward, goaltender Dan McFarland of Warfield and defencemen Steve Unti of Trail and Bruno Tassone of Castlegar, will be inducted in to the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.
They’ll join the 2015 class of inductees, which includes former Vancouver Canuck captain Markus Naslund, Stanley Cup winner Rob Niedermayer from Cranbrook and current NHL assistant coach and former Canuck Curt Fraser.
But for the four local inductees, the weekend provides an opportunity to revisit a moment etched in time with their comrades who made it possible.
“I’m sure some of the faces will look different,” admitted Zanier. “But the bond remains tight.”
That sentiment was echoed by each of the local players when recalling that six-month whirlwind that culminated with an 8-0 win over Nova Scotia in the gold medal game.
“I remember how well the guys got along without even knowing each other,” said McFarland.
“I remember just the way a group of guys, who have never played together before, were able to come together from Day One,” added Zanier.
Tassone, who served as an assistant captain on the team of predominantly Junior B players, credited the team’s success to its “unity.”
“The team was unbelievable. I think it was the way the coach picked the team. We gelled very well,” he added. “Everyone knew their role.”
Head coach Colin Patterson, who was inducted to the Hall in 2013, was a mainstay in local hockey circles as a Cranbrook coach known for his calm and positive demeanor.
“I learned more about hockey in those few months,” said Unti. “I think it was a testament to the volunteers involved. We had talent but we also had coaching.”
Zanier, who is an assistant coach with the Trail Smoke Eaters, recalled Patterson’s calm presence behind the bench.
“In the opening game against Quebec, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau came out for the ceremonial puck drop. Then when he left he shook the Quebec players’ hands but not ours. I think that rattled us a bit but Colin calmed us down.”
B.C. went on to roll over Quebec en route to four straight wins, the gold medal and completing a string of 13 straight wins, which began during exhibition matches prior to the Games.
“We had such a solid team,” said Zanier. “There was no first or second lines.”
Even the gold medal game provided no match for the B.C. boys. The team beat P.E.I. 13-2 in the semifinal and didn’t slow down against Nova Scotia.
“It was the only game where I was nervous,” admitted Tassone.
“We jumped on (Nova Scotia) right away and Dan was outstanding in goal,” said Zanier.
McFarland, one of the youngest players on the team, didn’t know what to make of all the fuss around the final, where he notched his first ever shutout.
“When I got home and they interviewed me I said I just stopped the puck, gave to the defencemen, they gave it to the wingers and they scored.”
Simple as that. Yet it still stands out.
“It was a memorable event,” said Unti.
He said the team didn’t get to attend the opening ceremonies but took part in the closing ceremonies with a gold medal hanging around their necks.
“That was cool,” said Unti.
All those emotions and memories will come rushing back to the forefront this weekend as the team will be celebrated in Penticton with events throughout the weekend highlighted by the induction ceremony on Friday.
The team will join the likes of the 1938 and 1961 world champion Trail Smoke Eaters, the 1955 world champion Penticton Vees and 1937 world champion Kimberley Dynamiters as teams who have all been inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame.