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Tkachyk remains close with hockey friends

Courtesy of Perry Bergson, The Brandon Sun – Of all things Ed Tkachyk received from the game of hockey, it’s the friendships he may treasure the most.

Now 66, the Elm Creek product spent a single season in the Western Canadian Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings after two years with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Dauphin Kings. He remains close with a bunch of his former Brandon teammates, such as Wayne Wilhelm, Rick Piche and Kelly Greenbank — men he skated with 47 years ago.

Former Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ed Tkachyk and wife Jo-Ann pose for a recent picture. The pair raised three children at their rural property north of Elm Creek, and now have six grandchildren.

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Former Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ed Tkachyk and wife Jo-Ann pose for a recent picture. The pair raised three children at their rural property north of Elm Creek, and now have six grandchildren.

“Once you’ve been with each other every day in a hockey atmosphere, you can get back to that very easily,” Tkachyk said. “In a matter of two minutes you’re back to your same old self talking and joking about all the stupid things you did. It’s amazing relationships. A lot of my friends say they wish they would have experienced junior hockey.

“There were tough times physically and mentally but it’s a reward now to sit back with a bunch of friends and relive those years.”

Tkachyk grew up in the community of Elm Creek, which is located 52 kilometres southeast of Portage la Prairie. He was the oldest of three boys and third in the birth order of the 10 kids.

His father Matt and mother Doris farmed, and when Ed was 15, the family moved out to the farm, which was only a half mile away.

As a youngster, he started skating with his friends on a nearby pond, or would walk over to the outdoor rink. (An indoor arena was built in 1967.)

“It was kind of handy for me in those growing stages because I had nine siblings so my parents didn’t really have a lot of time to be hauling me over downtown and watching me,” Tkachyk said. “I would just get dressed and walk to the rink and somebody would be there.”

One person in town stands above all others in his memory of that period.

Scotty Sisson, who died in 2015 at age 94, was an invaluable resource for every youngster in the community. He would open the rink every day at 5 p.m., and stay until 10, coaching every age group. If he had time, he would also coach some of the teams on the weekend.

The fruits of his labour could be found in the early 1970s when seven players from the small community played in the MJHL at the same time. In a three-year span, a dozen found their way to the league.

“He gave us the love for it or something,” Tkachyk said. “He was never a physical coach. He loved the Russians way back in the 1970s, and always said ‘That’s the way we should be playing hockey.’ He was good with how he drummed the fundamentals into us. It would be wrong of me not to mention him, not only for me, but for everybody else.”

Tkachyk was fortunate to grow up in a large cohort of talented local athletes who played hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer.