Reflections of Ponoka: A tribute to Eric Paterson

For those of us who were lucky enough to be able to hang around the old Ponoka arena in the 1950s and sixties

Eric Paterson

Eric Paterson

For those of us who were lucky enough to be able to hang around the old Ponoka arena in the 1950s and sixties, we will always cherish so many memories of the great hockey teams, the avid and rowdy fans, and a chance to sample the best hamburgers and fries in town! We may have had a chance to play on a local minor hockey team or even be a rink-rat, but we would always idolize those exciting Ponoka Stampeder Intermediate hockey players, who we always wanted to be like someday! They all became instant household names and coffee shop heroes every winter, where they played in the rugged Central Alberta Hockey League before packed houses, and would win many championships along the way!

One of the most exciting players on that team was a diminutive goaltender by the name of Eric Paterson, who performed miracles in the net for our local team for an exciting decade. Born on September 11, 1929 he developed a great passion for the thrilling game of hockey at an early age, and began his long and illustrious career with the Maple Leaf Athletic Club in Edmonton. Paterson later joined the Edmonton Waterloo Mercury’s Intermediate ‘A’ Hockey Club, which competed in league and Provincial play during the 1940’s and fifties. The big claim to fame for this talented team came in 1950 when they won the World Hockey Championship in London, England, and then with Eric Paterson as a member they captured Canada’s first Olympic Gold Medal in Oslo, Norway in 1952, as well as another World Hockey Championship. Our nation would not capture another Olympic hockey gold until 2002, the same year that the Mercury’s were inducted into the coveted Canadian Olympic Hockey Hall of Fame, and later on May 13, 2013 into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum!

Eric Paterson joins the Ponoka Stampeders!

In 1953 Eric Paterson joined the Ponoka Stampeders of the Central Alberta Hockey League to take on the goaltending duties, a position in which he became an outstanding all-star for 10 great seasons! In 1956 Eric married Ponoka girl Bobbie Hinkley, the daughter of long-time and popular Riverside Corner Grocery Store owners George and Hap Hinkley, who were also avid hockey fans! The ‘Country boy’ Gawney Hinkley was also a goaltender for the Stampeders during that exciting era of community hockey!

Along the way the hard-hitting, speedy, and talented local team would win many Central Alberta Hockey League titles and three straight Alberta/B.C. Cups, and then in the 1955-56 season brought home the Western Canada Intermediate Senior ‘A’ Hockey Championship after a hard fought series with the Port Arthur Bear Cats. Members of that team included: Frank Mickey (trainer), Norm MacLeod (Manager), Bob Manson, Ron Tookey, Bruce Lea, Dunc Grant, Cy Whiteside, Jerry Kernaghan, Ray Ulyett (trainer), Percy Wolfe, Larry Hodgson, Shorty Jones, Eric Paterson, Billy Thomas, Jackie Moore, Rex Turple, Ralph Vold, Maurice Wolfe,  Shorty Gordon, Dave Shantz, Frank Joyal, Jim Malin, Ken Clapp, Don Clarke, Al Shantz, Remi Brisson, Rod Fonteyne, Bing Merluk,  Ken Head, and team officials Art Barnes, Angus MacLeod, and Augie Cerveny. Over the years many great players and characters would proudly wear the red, black, star-studded uniform with the bucking horse logo of the Ponoka Stampeders, and of course that proud hockey tradition has carried on at our local rinks to this day with our minor and Junior ‘B’ teams.

An extremely active person and dedicated husband and father Eric Paterson worked for the City of Edmonton Transit System for 42 years. At the end of his illustrious hockey career Eric traded his goal pads for a striped shirt and a whistle and refereed until his retirement in 1991. Eric Paterson passed away suddenly on January 14, 2014 at the age of 84 years, and is survived and greatly missed by Bobbie, his wife of 58 years, sons Craig and Doug, and two grandchildren. His strength, loyalty, integrity, extreme love of sports, and strong commitment in all aspects of his life earned this fine gentleman the deep respect and admiration of his family, along with hundreds of friends, team-mates, and avid fans!