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An Historic Overview by Del Sveinsson - May 1999

     During the fall of 1972-73; Bob Washburn who worked for a local tire shop and was also a stock car racing enthusiast, assembled together a group of Leduc hockey players to play exhibition games in Leduc and other communities. Word of this team spread locally and many other Leduc residents expressed an interest in playing on the team or one like it. For the 1973-74 season, (2) one hour ice slots were booked for Sunday nights at the Alexander Arena and four teams were assembled to initiate a league called the Leduc Oldtimers. The four teams were sponsored by the Towne House Motor Hotel, Travel Esso, Leduc Chrysler and Walker's IDA Pharmacy.

     There was no age limit to the League and the season began in mid-October and ended in March the following year.  During the 1973-74 season, Glyn O'Brien, a city of Edmonton policeman, who had moved to Leduc, took the reins in administering the League. It was determined that the description "Oldtimer" in hockey circles applied to players 35 years old and more. An official organization out of Toronto, called the Canadian Oldtimers Hockey Association; in fact, was the governing body for Oldtimer hockey in Canada. The C.O.H.A. is now known as the Canadian Adult Recreation Hockey Association (CARHA) and has grown to an immense membership across Canada.

     Because the Leduc Oldtimers consisted of players ranging in ages from 19 years to over 40 years, the name of the League was changed during the 1974- 75 season to officially become the Leduc Old Blades Hockey League so that it was no longer in conflict with the "Oldtimers" age requirement. It was difficult to think of those under 35 being "Oldtimer" hockey players. A 19 year old and a 21 year old were playing in the league at that time. Over time the age limit in the Leduc OBHL was raised as each season was completed.

     The name "Leduc Old Blades Hockey League" was coined by Glyn O'Brien and Del Sveinsson over lunch one day. They borrowed the name from the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League and simply added "Old" with other similarities coming into play such as L.A. for Los Angeles and Leduc, Alberta. Furthermore, they thought that "Old Blades" could, with some humor. apply to players of any age hauling out their old skates and getting back into hockey and playing with some enthusiasm.

     The League recruited a permanent Sunday night referee for the 1974-75 season, whereas they had simply used the services of the players to fill in as officials in previous years. Dave Defraine, who worked for Air Canada, and lived in Leduc achieved much notoriety as the League's first official. Defraine grew up in the tough Boyle Street area of Edmonton and played Junior Hockey in both Saskatchewan and Alberta. He was an exceptionally speedy skater and throughout his hockey career, gained a reputation for being somewhat of an enforcer. A severe knee injury ended Defraine's hockey career. As a result, he became a very competent referee in the Edmonton area. All who played in the LOBHL when Dave Defraine officiated recall how intimidating he could be, a no-nonsense guy, but off the ice he had a huge heart and was a true friend to the League. The professionalism that Defraine demonstrated while officiating also raised the conduct and level of play in the League. The games became more competitive and exciting to play

     At the conclusion of the 1974-75 season, the Leduc Old Blades League's first banquet was held at the Leduc Golf and Country Club and it was very well attended. Del Sveinsson made the rounds of local businesses and obtained sponsorships for the League Championship and League MVP Trophies which were presented. Leduc Chrysler was the first League Champion and Alex Wilhauk was the first MVP. The late Matt Wyhony, then a part owner of Leduc Chrysler, presented individual trophies to the players.

     While it was a great year in many respects - a permanent referee, a new league name, playoffs, trophies, a banquet, etc., it was not a great year financially. There were some budget deficits that had to be dealt with. It became evident that a more structured League Executive was necessary. It could no longer loosely operate and the result was that, an Executive Committee was put in place.

     Glyn O'Brien became the first President of the LOBHL in the 1975-76 season and acted as Treasurer as well. During that season O'Brien not only paid off an outstanding bill for ice time but he also balanced the budget leaving a small surplus in place for the next season. Glyn O'Brien took over the reigns of the LOBHL as President for seven consecutive years. He loved the game of hockey and his pride and enthusiasm for the League was contagious.

     For two or three seasons, Glyn arranged ice time in South Edmonton because Leduc's ice was not available in the Alexander Arena until mid-October. The players had great fun boarding a school bus driven by George Alton and heading off to Edmonton for some conditioning, a good skate.... the Leduc OBHL's version of a training camp. During Glyn O'Brien's tenure as President, the Players Draft was inaugurated by him, which may well be the most positive and significant innovation brought into the League.

     For several years the Player Draft was held at one of the sponsor's (Haida Realty's offices) and was always looked forward to with anticipation as the process generated much interest and good fun.  Great times were experienced playing hockey Sunday evenings at the Alexander Arena. The caretaker, Jack McLeod, would clean the ice after the final game. It became a ritual whereby Jack would come to the far dressing room, where the last die-hards assembled for refreshments, and announce that he was finished for the night and then asked the boys to "shut off the lights and go out the exit when you're done" which was sometimes in the early hours of the morning. Many of the players stayed late to analyze and dissect every minute of the evening games and generally come up with an array of fantastic excuses for underperforming.

     The Black Gold Centre opened in 1980 and President Glyn O'Brien arranged ice times at this new facility. He also determined that it was time to expand the League to six teams. Two new sponsors were secured. It was an exciting evening when the six teams assembled and played their first games in the new Black Gold Recreation Centre. Hardly a player left this new facility until all the games ended that night.

     In 1978 Glyn O'Brien started a team called the Leduc Rusty Blades. The team was composed of some talented players from the Leduc OBHL and they played games throughout the Edmonton area. They won the Molson Cup held in Calgary five years in a row as well as many other tournaments. Many of the players had played at a high level including goalie Steve VanDiest with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ron Guiltner an NHL draft choice. Several others had played junior hockey and university hockey. The team still functions.

     On a humorous note, President Glyn O'Brien took great pride in carrying out his responsibilities and was notorious for keeping a count and auditing all team sweaters. He was always on the lookout for anyone who failed to turn in his sweater at the end of the season. For years his wife Marilyn sewed, mended and cleaned all the sweaters. When Glyn developed his basement, he had a large cedar lined closet built for his wife, however, those close to the family know for a certainty that the entire sets of League sweaters occupied that special closet from the end of the hockey season to the beginning of the next one for several years.

     Subsequent to Glyn O'Brien's term of office, many well qualified individuals became President and surrounded themselves with excellent League Executive members. Some of those subsequent league Presidents were Greg Wilkes, Al Yakoweshen, Mike Werenka, Brian Brook and others. Each President and League Executive left their mark and because of that, in 1999 the League successfully celebrated it's 25th Anniversary and understood to be the oldest. continuously operated Oldtimer's League in Western Canada and perhaps all of Canada.

     The age limit for enrollment eventually was set at 35 years and in recent years improvements were made to the draft process, new awards had been implemented, specific rules tailored for the League were brought into effect, and an improved 2-man officiating system as well as a permanent timekeeper was installed. An expanded League Executive with a President, Past President. President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer and 12 Team Directors, governs the league in a democratic and responsible manner.

     At the League's 25th Anniversary Celebration (April /99), President Brian Brook and the entire League welcomed several Alumni who enjoyed a festive and spirited reunion. President Brook presented commemorative pins to all the Alumni and a memory picture was taken. Four players were recognized for having played in the LOBHL's inaugural season and were still playing in the  1998-99 season 25 years later.Those players were: Brian Brook, Glyn O'Brien, Stan Ratzlaff. Del Sveinsson.  Stan Ratzlaff, at 19, was the youngest player in the LOBHL during the 1974-75 season. The four players were presented with specially designed 25th Anniversary commemorative medallions.

     The League Champions for the 1998-99 25th Anniversary Season were the players from the Go-Getter Welding hockey team. A new award called the Ambassador Award, dedicated to honour the Leduc OBHL's founding President, Glyn O'Brien, was presented for the first time

     The Leduc Old Blades Hockey League continues to enjoy superb leadership, much success and great fellowship amongst it's participants. The City of Leduc can be very proud of this fine organization that fills a real need in the community.