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INDUCTEE 2018 - ATHLETE - Rod Fonteyn


 


Presentation Speech  by Sandra Write


Special Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Rod Fonteyne is being inducted as an athlete for his achievements and skill in the sport of hockey.  It is my special pleasure to give you a little more insight into this man as we induct him tonight. 

Rod Fonteyne was born in 1932; if he was alive today he would be eighty-five years old.  He grew up and participated in sports in Wetaskiwin with many of our Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame former inductees.  His particular era seemed to produce many outstanding athletes and “local heroes”, and Rod is one of them.  Ralph Pocock, a former inductee, was Rod’s mentor. Ralph made sure that young hockey players from Wetaskiwin were able to get the opportunities that were available at the time.  It was Ralph who drove Rod and his brother Val to a hockey camp in Calgary where scouts for the WHL Medicine Hat Tigers invited both Fonteyne boys to try out for the team and both made the team.  If they had not played on that junior team Val might not have had his wonderful NHL career and Rod might have taken a different life path.

After his junior career Rod played hockey on the Ponoka Stampeders with former inductee Ron Emmerling. When he took on the player-coach job with the Wetaskiwin Colonels he played with former inductees Ron Emmerling, Bill Gust, Jerry Greene and Bud Moen, During the summers Rod played baseball in Wetaskiwin and in the 1950’s the Wetaskiwin Senior Baseball Club that Rod played on won four or five league championships, three of them consecutively. The team was coached by former inductee Al Arner and team members besides Rod included former inductees Val Fonteyne, Bud Moan, Rodney Schneck and Ron Emmerling.   When Rod played with the Wetaskiwin Relics Old Timers Hockey Team his team mates included Val Fonteyne and Ron Emmerling and other former inductees Ed Ruff, Willie Littlechild, Larry Hodgson, Pat Barry, Ross MacEachern and Harold Maciborski. Sadly five of the men I’ve mentioned have passed away but seven of them are in attendance tonight and you were introduced to them earlier. I’m sure Rod would be very pleased to see all of his Wetaskiwin buddies and I bet they all have some Rod Fonteyne stories!

Hockey became Rod’s passion and really his life. After junior hockey he played Intermediate Hockey with the Ponoka Stampeders of the Central Alberta Intermediate A Hockey League for two years - he probably would have played for the Wetaskiwin Colonels but they did not field a team.  After his two years in Ponoka it was Al Arner that persuaded Rod to become Player-coach of the Wetaskiwin Colonels when the Colonels had been accepted into the Battle River Hockey Intermediate “B” League with teams from Daysland, Killam, Hardisty, Alliance and Camrose. As a player, Rod was the class of the Battle River Hockey league.  He won the league scoring title and was named MVP of the Colonels.  It was noted in the Wetaskiwin Times after a win in Camrose: “Rod Fonteyne was the individual star, playing a sparkling offensive game as well as turning in some nice work on defence.  Time and again he brought spectators to their feet with his rink length dashes and at times he threw the Camrose defence into confusion.  He beat the Camrose net minder three times and picked up an assist on Kaiser’s goal in the third period to maintain his league leadership in total points.

After a year as player/coach of the Colonels, Rod tried his game in the semi-pro and pro leagues and played in Washington, Seattle and Milwaukee.  The first two years in Washington and Seattle he was cut from the teams and finished the hockey season playing for the Red Deer Rustlers. In his second year with the Rustlers, the team won the Western Canadian Championship and Rod was the leading scorer.  Rod’s longest stint as a pro was with the Milwaukee Falcons of the International Hockey League when he played fifty-five games.   After another year playing in Red Deer, Rod was at a cross-roads in his career and on a whim he accepted a job as player/coach with the Fort St. John Flyers Senior Men’s Hockey Team……..not even knowing where Fort St. John was!

It was the 1961-62 season when Rod moved to Fort St. John.  He was twenty-nine years old.  Rod lived in Fort St John the rest of his life.  He played hockey for another thirty-seven years retiring from the game at age sixty-six when his knees gave out!  His drive and enthusiasm must have rubbed off on the Flyers hockey club.  In his first year as player-coach the team won their first of eleven south Peace league championships. In the twelve years he coached they also won seven All Peace championships.  After coaching Rod continued playing for the Flyers. In his fifteen year career with the Flyers he scored over 300 goals, won three consecutive scoring titles and was awarded two league MVP honours - again he was often the “class of the field”.  Even though Rod lived in the far north, he did maintain contact with family and friends in Wetaskiwin and he did play Old Timer Hockey on the Wetaskiwin Relics team for almost twenty years…from the mid ’70’s to the early ’90's, traveling with the team to tournaments in Canada and some international events. 

Rod’s #12 jersey is enshrined in the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John where Rod left a formidable, half-century legacy in the Fort St. John’s hockey community.  This hockey season the Flyers wore a commemorative patch on their jerseys to remember Fonteyne.  After retiring Rod still attended every home game, he was a 'fixture' in the arena.

At his Celebration of Life in Fort St John, Rod was described by the Flyers president as a humble gentleman who gave much of himself and had an infectious smile.  Reading the condolences on line when Rod passed away, it is evident how well liked, how well respected, and how much he meant to his community……he was an icon in the city and the “Face of the Fort St John Flyers”.

Rod Fonteyne spent his life involved in a sport he loved….we should all be so lucky!  He was an exceptional athlete and hockey player and so worthy of induction into the Wetaskiwin and County Sports Hall of Fame.


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