Longtime hockey trainer Wayne Hubbard at the rink inside Ladner Leisure Centre, where he’s worked with Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) over the past four years. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Junior hockey’s ‘Wayner the trainer’ exits after 50 years in the game

Surrey resident Wayne Hubbard has worked close to 6,000 games and practices

After 50 years of sharpening skates, bandaging wounds and otherwise caring for teen hockey players and their equipment, Wayne Hubbard says it’s time to hang up his tape scissors.

He’s been working dressing rooms and benches at one B.C. rink or another since the 1969-70 season of the Kelowna Packers.

Now a Newton-area resident of Surrey, Hubbard has been head trainer with the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) over the past four years. The team didn’t make the playoffs this season, meaning it’s game over for Hubbard’s career in hockey.

Back in September, Hubbard told Ice Hawks owner Eduard Epshtein that the 2019-20 season would be his last as a trainer.

“I’ll be going from 100 miles an hour to zero right away,” Hubbard said. “That’s going to be the hard part for me. I mean, if I was a lot healthier I would have probably stayed another year, but I got diagnosed with leukemia in December. So my doctors are on my case about continuing. I figured there’s no better time to end it.”

This week, Hubbard began cleaning out the Ice Hawks’ dressing room and offices at Ladner Leisure Centre.

At age 73, he says he’ll miss the day-to-day happenings at the rink – most of them, anyhow.

Over the years, he has worked for a half-dozen teams in Junior A and B hockey, including stops in Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, Surrey, Ridge Meadows and Delta, for a grand total of around 6,000 games and practices.

You see, he’s done some calculating.

“I figure I’ve done around 30,000 loads of laundry, all those jerseys and socks,” he said with a laugh. “Cam (Groves, equipment manager) does the home games and I do all the road games, and it’s five loads every game. I do those at home, which is just easier.”

(Story continues below)

He’s been a trainer pretty much fulltime since retiring from Fraser Health’s payroll department at age 57, in the mid-2000s.

“In Junior A, those are some 15-, 16-hour days, with not many days off,” Hubbard said. “So for a time there I was working a fulltime job and doing this. I think back and wonder how I managed it all.”

Along the way, he became known as “Wayner the trainer,” a nickname earned in the 1970s to avoid confusion with a head coach at the time.

Never married, Hubbard made hockey his life.

“I have all the kids I need here every year, but at least they can go home to their parents every night and I don’t have to deal with them, because they can be a handful sometimes,” he said with a smile. “Every year you get a different bunch with a different attitude, different mix, everything. Most of the players are good kids.”

As a kid in Kelowna, Hubbard never played hockey but became a fan of the local junior team at the old Memorial Arena there. A player got hurt one night and, with some first-aid training to his credit, Hubbard jumped into action.

“I guess I kind of actually fell into this, because I was interested in the medical part,” he said. “Back in those days it was no helmets, or horrible helmets, and the goalies wore flat masks, the Jacques Plante kind, and everybody was getting cut, it was bad. It just progressed from there.”

He’s been the trainer for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of stickhandlers and puckstoppers. When he gets recognized at a rink or elsewhere, sometimes he fails to recognize the person greeting him.

“I’m honest now and just tell them, sorry,” Hubbard said with a shrug. “And some of them have changed so much, they’re tough to recognize anyways. It’s pretty funny sometimes.”

One former player he would recognize in public is Joe Sakic, the Colorado Avalanche great who once played minor hockey in Burnaby, on a mid-’80s midget team that involved Hubbard.

“He lived right across the street from the rink, him and his brother, and that year we won the Westerns and went to nationals in Moncton,” Hubbard recalled. “He was just a quiet, classy kid just oozing talent. Like, as a 16-year-old, this kid was so talented, it was scary. And he was pretty resilient too, and of course guys used to key on him, go after him, because he’d kill you in a game if you didn’t check him and get in his face. But the thing that almost got him in junior was that bus crash with Swift Current, the Broncos. He came within an inch of losing his life in that.”

Other future NHLers Hubbard worked with include Milan Lucic, the Stanley Cup winner and former Coquitlam Express forward, and also Kyle Turris, the Nashville Predators centre who played for the BCHL’s Burnaby Express in the mid-2000s.

“When he was around 16 years old, I told Kyle’s mom, ‘Your kid will make the NHL, I’m telling you right now,’” Hubbard said. “He just had that presence. I’m no scout or anything, but I know talent when I see it, just from being around so long. And I get to know the players on the bench and in the dressing room, too. I can see who the good ones are.”

Players today, he noted, are “more independent” and less formal with coaches.

“That’s one thing I notice,” Hubbard said. “Their relationships with coaches and the way they interact with coaches, back 25, 30 years ago, that interaction would never happen. Now, the players are just so forward and outgoing, and if we could just get them to stay off their cellphones, that’d be great – between periods, all that.”

“But they’re great, and I really get to know them and what they bring, because I’m in the dressing room and on the bench, too,” he continued. “I’m the neutral guy and they kind of talk to me a lot, stuff they wouldn’t talk to coaches about. I’ve heard and dealt with a lot that I could never repeat, all kinds of stuff. You’re kind of like a father, because they treat you that way. It’s pretty cool.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Supreme Court upholds White Rock council decision on Lady Alexandra development

Planned 12-storey highrise on lower Johnston Road was stalled in 2018

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

MARCH 31: Five more in B.C. have died due to COVID-19

Surrey RCMP not seeing ‘significant loss’ in ranks because of COVID-19

Surrey Mounties say they have a good tracking system to keep tabs on police officers experiencing an illness

No final high school game for Surrey all-stars; six scholarship winners named

COVID-19 forces cancellation of all-star games for boys and girls at Enver Creek gym April 3

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

UPDATE: 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

BC heart surgery patient rarely leaves home

James Jepson is especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Two arrested after man lies about COVID-19 illness to stay in Victoria Airbnb for free

Victoria Police found stolen goods inside the occupied unit

Most Read

l -->