By Dave Leaderhouse
It is hard to imagine what the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League would look like if not for the efforts of Dr. Gerald (Gerry) Rooney almost 50 years ago.
The Estevan-born and Ontario-educated optometrist was instrumental in bringing the Humboldt Broncos into the league in 1970 and for more than a decade he served in a number of roles to help make the Broncos a flagship franchise for the Junior “A” circuit.
Rooney returned to his native province in 1958 after 15 years in the Ottawa area, but it wasn’t until his sons became interested in hockey that he took an active role in the sport.
Rooney served as a coach in the Humboldt minor hockey system for a number of years and that involvement set up a meeting with Mike Shabaga from Swift Current, who was interested in setting up an affiliate franchise for the Western Canada Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos.
After some discussion with other local hockey enthusiasts the Broncos were born in Humboldt and in their first season they made it all the way to the league final before eventually falling to the Weyburn Red Wings.
Rooney was the club’s general manager until the mid-1970s and then remained with the team for several more years in an advisory role.
His knowledge of the game also garnered him a spot on a special task force that looked at all aspects of hockey in Saskatchewan in 1974.
Rooney was recognized for his efforts in the sport when he was inducted into the SJHL Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, but his community involvement wasn’t limited to just hockey.
Rooney was a member of the Humboldt Chamber of Commerce, president of the local Lions Club, a member of Humboldt recreation board, a board member with Carlton Trail Community College and Humboldt Separate School Division, president of the St. Dominic Home and School Association and he was also a member of the Knights of Columbus. Professionally, Rooney was also an acting president of the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists.
Rooney and his wife of 66 years, Muriel, retired to Calgary in 2002 and it is there where he passed away last weekend at the age of 90.
Rooney leaves to cherish his memory: his wife Muriel and seven children (along with their spouses) in addition to 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren – plus many others who he touched throughout his long and productive life.
Prayer services will be held Sept. 8 at McInnis and Holloway funeral home with the funeral mass to be celebrated on Sept. 9 at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church – both in Calgary.
The SJHL would like to pass on its sincerest condolences to the Rooney family and to also thank Dr. Rooney for his tireless efforts in making the league, and hockey in general, what it is today.