Way back in the 1960s and 70s, my first wife and I were very fortunate to become good friends with Larry Hodgson and his wife Barb. Although I haven’t seen him for quite some time and would love to get together for a coffee, I was very pleased to hear last week that Larry had been inducted on March 19, 2016 into the Wetaskiwin County Sports Hall of Fame as an accomplished hockey and baseball player and mentor for over 40 years.
Larry Hodgson was born in Hobbema (now Maskwacis), and like so many other children on the reserve, attended the Erminskin Indian Residential School. The most positive aspect of his 11 years at the school was learning how to play hockey and baseball, from which he developed a keen passion for competitive sports as well as the skill level that allowed him to play on many teams both in his home community and in Wetaskiwin, as long as he could catch a ride back and forth to the games. At the age of 17, he was invited to play for Al Arner’s Juvenile Baseball team in Wetaskiwin, and in later years his impressive baseball skills gave him many opportunities to excel on baseball teams throughout the province, wherever he was living or working, and these included Grande Prairie, Wetaskiwin, and with the North Edmonton Rockets, who were a team of hockey players.
After leaving the residential school, Larry worked for local farmers, and then got a job at Pahal Motors in Wetaskiwin. He, of course, jumped at the opportunity to play for the Wetaskiwin Juvenile Colonels in the 1951-1952 and 1952-53 seasons, during which he was awarded the Manley Memorial Trophy as the best all-round and most co-operative hockey player. After Juveniles, he skated with the Hobbema team in a new senior league against Wetaskiwin, Gwynne, and Millet, where he and his mates finished in first place, and then for the following season Larry joined the powerful Wetaskiwin Senior Colonels squad. After attending SAIT to complete an automobile mechanic course he came back home and accepted an invitation to play for the very popular Ponoka Senior Stampeders in the Central Alberta Hockey League. During the 1955-56 season he had the thrill of helping that great Stampeder team to sweep through the league, Provincial, and Western Canada Senior Hockey Championships. Likely the milestone of Larry Hodgson’s long and illustrious hockey career came in 1956, where during a CAHL league game at the Ponoka arena, he scored three goals in 20 seconds, a competitive hockey hat trick record that still stands to this day.
After moving to the Grande Prairie area for work, Larry played in the 1956-57/ 1957-58 seasons with the Grande Prairie Athletics, who went on to win the North and South Peace Country Senior Championships both seasons. After playing in Vegreville for one season, Hodgson had several offers to play minor professional hockey in Omaha and Fort Wayne, but because he longed to travel the world, he chose to play pro in England for the Brighton Tigers of the British Ice Hockey League against clubs in a European circuit. After his stint in Europe, Larry played one season with the Peace River Stampeders and then returned home to Maskwacis where he married Barb (Lewis) and began raising a family, which eventually included daughter Cherry and sons Barry, Stoney, and Karry, and were later blessed with 10 grandchildren. In 1973, Larry became interested in the coaching aspect of the game, attending a Fred Shero Masters Coaches Clinic and others to help him eventually achieve his level-five coaching certification and then went on to teach and mentor other prospective hockey coaches throughout the province. His busy year-round schedule for the next decade also included the coaching of a local junior ‘A’ team, running the Four Band Arena, setting up and working hockey schools and assisting the Maskwacis Minor Hockey Association, as well as heading the spring/summer management of the Panee Agriplex and overseeing 28 rodeos.
With the spirit of hockey always running through his veins, Larry Hodgson later played for the Hobbema Senior Oil Chiefs with his two talented brothers Ted and Harley, and loved travelling to ‘old-timer’ tournaments throughout Canada and Europe. Now in his mid-70s and still living at Maskwacis, Larry Hodgson can proudly look back at a long and colorful lifetime of achievements and dedication to all aspects of the exciting puck game, not only as a gifted player, but as a coach, a teacher, a mentor, a community promoter, a hockey dad and grandpa, and a very worthy recipient of his new and well deserved place in the Wetaskiwin County Sports Hall of Fame.