If you’ve attended a kid’s sporting event in Prince Rupert in the past, well, many many years, there’s a good chance you have seen Barton Hughes on the sideline in some capacity. Whether it was during his playing days, with one of the many teams Hughes is involved with coaching, or cheering on one of his children, Hughes has been a fixture on the Prince Rupert sporting scene for decades.
Hughes is a Grade 7 teacher at Prince Rupert Middle School. It is through the school that he performs many of his coaching duties, although he is certainly not just limited to helping out with games played by the Storm.
“Through the school I help out with a little bit of everything. I’m a track and field guy, I teach gym, I help out Denise Wilson [head coach] with the volleyball team, and I’ll probably help out a little bit with basketball if they need me,” Hughes said.
“Outside of school I’ve been coaching minor hockey for over a decade,” Hughes said, fittingly sporting a Seawolves jacket as he says so. “I might coach soccer a bit. Wherever my kids are I kind of tend to go and help.”
Hughes’ three children with his wife Kim, Logan, 14, Kendra, 12, and Aubrey, 9, are all heavily active in a variety of sports. Aubrey is involved with hockey, swimming and dance, Kendra finds herself at home on the track, volleyball and basketball courts, and the dance floor, while Logan has excelled at track and field and on the ice for the Seawolves.
“We love sports, it’s a huge part of our lives,” Hughes says, just in case anyone remained unclear.
Hughes developed an early passion for hockey from his dad Peter. The senior Hughes – whose given name is Barton’s actual first name – was a touted hockey prospect. Peter opted for a different career path though shortly before the NHL began its series of expansion drafts in the late 1960s, which would eventually result in a move from Ontario to Prince Rupert when Barton was young. Despite this, Peter still managed to instill a love for the game in his son.
|Barton Hughes has coached minor hockey, (among many other sports,) in Prince Rupert for more than a decade. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
It’s a passion that has not burned out, as Hughes still plays recreationally with the Old Chums Hockey League here in town. Hughes hopes to play as long as he can. He learned early on that every chance to get out and play is indeed a blessing.
At age 16, Hughes was involved in an accident at the saw mill in Prince Rupert that nearly claimed his life. Working at the mill with his father, Hughes was dragged into a conveyor belt, resulting in a myriad of major injuries. Broken legs, a broken elbow, broken wrist, and a degloving of skin on his legs and upper arms was the situation when Hughes was finally pulled out of the machine. It was unknown if he would survive, and even if he did, whether he would keep his legs and arm was another question.
Miraculously though, Hughes recovered with all his appendages intact. He was even back playing hockey recreationally shortly after healing up. Hughes had somehow come out on the other side. He of course had some lasting effects from an accident of this nature in terms of range of motion, however you would never pick it up at first glance, or based off his packed schedule. It did however mean that professional sports would not be Hughes’ career path.
He instead went to the University of Victoria to pursue a teaching career, attending with Kim. Unbeknownst to Barton at the time, Kim was one of the top ranked squash players in the province. (Kim’s father Ted is an accomplished squash player as well, and also claimed some records at the Prince Rupert Golf Course back in the day.) Barton and Kim found they had a shared drive for athletic pursuits, which continues now as much as ever.
“My wife and I are on the same page for all of this, it’s 180 miles an hour all the time,” Hughes said. “We enjoy our rest, because of the rest of it. But it’s a crazy, chaotic wonderful world we live in.”
“We’re firm believers that sport is huge in development, both physical and social,” Hughes said. “It teaches a lot of life skills.”
“Play hard, and everything else will work out,” Hughes says is his mantra for how he approaches his responsibilities as both a father and a coach.
|Barton Hughes performing one of his volunteer duties around town, helping coach the Grade 8 girls volleyball team at PRMS. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)|
Barton and Kim returned to Prince Rupert after university, where Barton has worked as a teacher for the past 15 years. He spent the first half of this career in the halls of Charles Hays Secondary, back in the days when their sports team went by the Hurricanes. Following the merging of the two high schools, Barton took up a post at the middle school, where he has been ever since.
Hughes finds one of the biggest benefits of his roles is that he has a chance to influence kids both in the classroom, and in the playing arena.
“What an advantageous thing it is to be able to see the kids that I teach in my classroom at other opportunities throughout the week; at the civic centre, on the field, downtown. It’s multiple opportunities to reinforce the things that I think are important,” Hughes said.
“Hopefully I’m molding the young minds of the future, and hopefully they’re going to come back and be contributing members of society,” Hughes added. “I love seeing kids come back and say ‘Mr. Hughes I want to help with the volleyball team. Having them bring back the skills that I’ve been a part of them accruing, seeing them come back and give back is pretty awesome.”
|Hughes often serves as team photographer as well, capturing all the action of youth sports in Prince Rupert. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Hughes is now at the point where he is teaching the children of children that have come through his classroom, a unique experience which he relishes. It’s certainly no secret that he is well known around town. Walking through the civic centre, there are few people with whom Hughes doesn’t strike up a conversation with or exchange a friendly hello.
As for whether Hughes thinks he and his family’s passion for athletics could ever translate into a career for his kids? “Every parent I’m sure at one point or another entertains the idea. What I think I really want for my kids through sport is to develop lifelong activity levels. To be involved and engaged in group activities such as sport, I love the health benefits it gives to them,” Hughes said.
“Play hard, have fun. As long as you’re doing something, enjoying it and getting the benefits out of it, whatever will be will be.”
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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