By Craig Stein
Weyburn Coach Gets Surprise Visit During Trying Time
(Wes Rudy and his wife Michelle, parents Tom & Donna (far left), and billets from 27 years ago, Bill & Diana Parker this April)
There’s no question the April 6th Humboldt Broncos bus crash sent shockwaves through the entire hockey community and beyond. In the weeks that followed, Weyburn Red Wings’ Head Coach Wes Rudy had a surprise visit which helped him get through the difficult time.
“My junior billets, Bill & Diana Parker came all the way here from Bellingham, Washington. They were here for a day and a half and it’s a 5000 km round-trip. They didn’t come out and say it but I really felt (the Broncos’ crash) had a lot to do with it. They’ve never been out here before but always said they wanted to. It really hit home for everyone and we all needed a visit and a hug.”
Rudy suited up as a goaltender in the BC Junior Hockey League in the early 1990’s, a good portion of which was in the state of Washington with the Bellingham Ice Hawks, a team that since relocated and became the Trail Smoke Eaters. He was traded to the Surrey Eagles as a 20-year-old before transitioning to coaching, where he helped the Eagles to an RBC Cup as a goalie coach under Mark Hollick in 1997-1998.
Rudy’s from Wadena, SK, played his Bantam Hockey in Yorkton, and ‘AAA’ Midget in Tisdale. He said he was intending to suit up for the Weyburn Red Wings, but his sister lived out west and he went to Bellingham’s camp first and ended up sticking.
“I actually didn’t even come home for the summer. They (The Parker’s) had an acreage and they kept me busy working out there, I loved it. They treated me like their own son and probably better. That’s the case a lot of the time. It’s getting harder and harder to find billets and I’m just so grateful looking back. We’re so fortunate to have people like them take our kids into their homes.”
While the loss of a child, the parents’ own flesh and blood can never be fully imagined by anyone, Rudy says the hockey family is a tight-knit one, and says his thoughts were with those Humboldt billet families in the aftermath.
“My heart goes out to the billets. I don’t think everyone realizes how close that relationship becomes. They made the last meal for some of those boys, and it really hit home with my ex-billets.”
Rudy is going into his sixth season with the Red Wings, and third as Head Coach, after three as a goaltending coach. He feels there’s plenty of reason for optimism as 2018-2019 approaches.
“We were led, largely, by 18-year-olds up front last season. Cade Kowalski (recently committed to Ferris State NCAA Division I in 2019-2020) led all rookies in points (11g-49p-60p), Jordan Kazymyra led all rookies in goals (21g-18a-39p), Ben Hiltz was a second year guy but he’s another impact ’99 (28g-27a-55p).”
While the rush of a new season will be here before we know it, Rudy says it was nice to slow down and put things in perspective with his parents and former billets during the off-season.
“We’re all looking older in that picture! It goes by fast and you stay in touch as much as you can.”