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MVP of the Week: Retirement? Not in George Kuntz’s vocabulary

Kuntz’s newest role saw him make sure golfers hit the greens all season long

George Kuntz has had a busy life, holding many different jobs throughout his career. Even in what was supposed to be his retirement, Kuntz has found it difficult to sit still.

This was evidenced this year when he became a de facto employee of the Prince Rupert Golf Course, even if he didn’t necessarily mean to. Kuntz had arrived for the start of the season in late spring, but he and the rest of the players gathered were disappointed to find heavy frost was delaying play. As the employees dealt with some of the backlog, Kuntz was asked if he could bring a few of the carts up so they’d be ready when it warmed up. And Kuntz did; the first day, and the next day, and the next day.

“Pretty soon a week went by and I said, ‘when did I sign this contract’,” Kuntz joked.

Many people in Prince Rupert will know Kuntz from his playing and coaching days with the Prince Rupert Kings back in the 1970s. But they likely don’t know the many jobs and winding path he took to land on the north coast in the first place.

Kuntz was born in Regina, and grew up to work as an electrician. It was during his work on an interprovincial pipeline in Saskatchewan that he realized he needed a change of scenery. “I got home and I said to my wife we’re moving,” Kuntz remembered. When asked why, “I just drove home in a snowstorm and it’s Easter!”

Sunnier days lay ahead in Vancouver, the next stop on Kuntz’s journey. The move hit an early snag however when Kuntz’s electrician union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) went on strike. Not being able to work in his trade, Kuntz took up a job with MacMillan Bloedel at the White Pine Sawmill, which in 2001 became the final sawmill in Vancouver to shut its doors. The work was grueling however, and after four months Kuntz decided this was not the future for him.

A familiar seat for George Kuntz this year, as he helped bring out the golf carts early each morning. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

An ad in the paper was the break Kuntz needed, as he spotted a help wanted posting from Palm Dairies. The company was looking for a combined driver and salesman position. “I said jeez, I can drive, and I can sell,” Kuntz said.

He made the biggest sales pitch of all before he even got the job, when during the job application he talked his way into the front office of the company to make his case in person. “I said I had two children, with another on the way. I need a job bad. And I got hired,” Kuntz said.

Kuntz found himself driving dairy products along Hastings St. all the way to Simon Fraser University. After a year of successful salesmanship along his route, Kuntz was asked if he wanted to be a part of the company’s northern expansion. Overwaitea Foods had just opened up a new store in Prince Rupert, which still stands to this day, (now known better as the Save-On Foods.) And they needed a company to deliver their dairy products. Despite admittedly not knowing anything about the town, Kuntz took the job and drove the Rupert streets for the next three-and-a-half years.

Kuntz shows off his stroke on the putting green. He remains a contender in any tournament he plays in. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Unfortunately Palm Dairies would lose their contract with Overwaitea, leaving Kuntz in a bind. He was offered the chance to return to Vancouver and drive, but he had grown to like Prince Rupert, and his family was happy. Again needing a job, chance befell him on his final delivery to the civic centre, where a friend of his informed him that the city was hiring surveryors. Kuntz applied, and before long he was driving around town in a new roll, checking bylaws for the City of Prince Rupert.

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During this time Kuntz also became heavily involved with the city’s hockey team, the Prince Rupert Kings. Starting off as a player in the Commercial Hockey League, Prince Rupert played an exhibition game against the Smithers Totems of the Pacific Northwest Hockey League (PNW) during the 1971-72 season. The PNW had been searching for more teams, and impressed at the play of the Rupert players, asked them to form a team. They did, and the next year were playing up and down Highway 16 on a regular basis. Kuntz recalls jam-packed schedules of back to back games on the weekend, followed by midweek games in Terrace where the team wouldn’t arrive home until 2 a.m. (with work the next day.)

Kuntz also had a highly successful hockey career, serving as a player, head coach and general manager for the Prince Rupert Kings. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

After finishing out his playing days, Kuntz took some time off before returning to the team as the head coach. He held the role for five seasons before stepping down to spend more time with his family. Kuntz remained involved in minor hockey coaching, which his kids took part in.

Meanwhile, Kuntz’s responsibilities with the city were quickly growing. Before long he was managing members of the parks department, street cleaners, sanitation workers, cemetary workers and more.

He had about 30 workers to account for at his job’s peak. The demands perhaps got too much however, as in 1994 Kuntz suffered a heart attack. Any question on whether he would return to his city job were put to rest six months later, when a second heart attack forced him to undergo an angioplasty. Kuntz would need to settle down.

For awhile, anyway.

Four months after retiring and taking a buyout from the city, Kuntz received a call. A construction company was looking for a supervisor to oversee work on the highway. Itching in retirement, Kuntz accepted the job, and spent the next four-and-a-half years overseeing roadwork. Again though the strain caught up to him, and this time Kuntz was forced into retirement after needing a right knee replacement.

Expect to see Kuntz back on the golf course next year. Whether it's as a player, volunteer, or both, remains to be seen. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

This time Kuntz stayed retired, taking the opportunity to spend more time with his wife, three kids, and eventually two grandchildren. He still manages to spend a good deal of time down at the golf course, playing — and working — whenver the opportunity allows. He’s kept up a strong shot at age 78 too, recently placing second place by a few yards in the course’s Tombstone tournament.

When Kuntz received his right knee replacement, he was told he would need work on his left knee as well. Kuntz put this off as he “didn’t think I’d live that long.”

In 2016, still going as strong as ever, Kuntz went in for his left knee replacement.

“At my age I look at it like this: tomorrow morning I wake up, I’m still here: it’s good.”

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Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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