The Prince Rupert Kings, a senior men’s hockey club active in the 1970s-80s, were honoured by current hockey royalty, the Prince Rupert Rampage on Saturday night at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre prior to the Prince Rupert Rampage’s game against Terrace.
With a collection of over 30 alumni from 1974-1982, it was an impressive reminder of how deep hockey roots run in Prince Rupert.
“It’s awesome to see the guys again. The people’s support – when we had practices, we would fill the place. I arrived here in 1971, the arena officially opened in October,” recalled George Kuntz, Kings’ player and coach.
“There was commercial league hockey at that time, so I went and talked to Gordy Gillam, he was coaching. He told me Gordon Anderson needed some help. That’s how we got started on this thing.”
Approximately 1,000 fans showed up to root on both the Rampage and the Kings Saturday night – by far a season-high crowd for the senior men’s Rampage game.
Trainer Jules Robinson, a co-organizer of the night, was also honoured, and given a plaque for his tireless and dedicated service to hockey in Prince Rupert.
Robinson was the team trainer for the Kings and is the current trainer for the Rampage decades after the Kings played their last game in the now-defunct Pacific Northwest Hockey League (PNWHL).
“The following year [after 1971] we played Smithers Totem. We would play two games in one night in the commercial league [with] people paying to watch,” Kuntz said.
“The next year we played the PNWHL. We played in a league with junior teams, [which] included the Portland Winterhawks Jr. B team. The league had as many as 12 teams and 40 games in a season.”
The night didn’t end after the Rampage’s thrilling 5-4 shootout win on Saturday.
The Kings and Rampage attended a planned social and the evening continued with stories exchanged from both teams — often with the question of ‘Who would win a match between the Kings in their prime and the Rampage?’ thrown about.
“There were some really good players that came through [the Kings’ program] that came from out of town that are still here. This is how we ended up with Rick Roemer. Ronnie Johnson should have have been playing junior, but nothing between the ears,’ he said, jokingly.
Ex-player Terry Garon’s experience was a little different as he started playing from a younger age.
“I played for two to three years. I was 17, really I was in party mode, but I was in phenomenal shape,” said Garon.
“I would try to put guys into the benches, sidestep, then bam! Then I would get hit twice as hard, get up, smile, and get back at ‘er. It was just a blur, but it was a hoot. I almost quit because it was so physical. Ronnie Johnson was just an animal for us.”