Remembering Heslop: a good player, better friend

"Fred was a decent scorer and usually one of the fastest skaters on those rep teams, and a good teammate..."

Among the things people didn’t hear or read about Fred Heslop since his passing were that he was young once, and a pretty talented hockey player.

Before he coached a B.C. Juvenile championship team, he played on at least one, doing both within a decade. He also played on at least two other provincial winners at other levels.

Fred was a decent scorer and usually one of the fastest skaters on those rep teams, and a good teammate, well-liked while a competitor, just as he was while working in other areas of his favourite game.

Just thought those who only knew Fred when he had grown into that executive body might like to know he succeeded at many hockey tasks over the years that required skills he didn’t use as a coach, executive or organizer, and made many lifelong friends in the process.

RIP Freddy.

• Besides the most abysmal start of any Smoke Eater branded club to my knowledge, the ‘69-70 senior team was memorable for pieces of its makeup, as well.

There were two immigrant Czechs in the mix for a while, both motivated to come to Canada by the sight of Russian tanks rolling by their front room windows the previous summer – during the USSR/Eastern Bloc crushing of the, “Prague Spring,” – and to Trail in particular because of the legend of Trailite Mike Buchna, an iconic father of the Czech hockey system which produced Olympic and world champions while the two were growing up.

The fact they played only a month or so and produced less than mediocre results (23 games, 10 points between them) made their claims to have been national B team up-and-comers in a hockey-mad and very accomplished country and system a little suspect, but they were nice guys.

Getting acclimatized to the rough and tumble of WIHL play may have hindered their development, but they make an interesting footnote to an interesting Smokie season.

• The junior Smokies had kind of a turnaround weekend, and that is good, especially if they have gained some confidence. BUT, they are still second worst in the league at both scoring goals and preventing them and were outshot in both games.

The opportunity is there the rest of this month, however, for them to get closer to contention for the post-season.

Five of their remaining seven November games are against division rivals they must overtake to make the playoffs.

Three of four points and their first win in 13 tries are a start – a very good start – but a long slog awaits.