The Stampeders Junior B hockey team did their best to honour player Damian Pannenbecker

The Stampeders Junior B hockey team did their best to honour player Damian Pannenbecker

Stampeders honour teammate in the best way possible

“Those are the things that connect us to the Stampeders. They’re little, but they’re big.” Marlene Pannenbecker

The loss of the Stampeders Junior B hockey player Damian Pannenbecker won’t soon be forgotten and the team he played for wants to ensure he is remembered in the best way possible.

Pannenbecker, a defenseman, died in a highway collision in January in Olds, which left the entire family and team in shock. The Stampeders organization, however, has taken Pannenbecker’s love of hockey to heart and immortalized him in a frame presented to the family.

Members of the board presented Pannenbecker’s immediate family with his jersey July 29, framed beautifully with his first goal hockey puck and badges from the teams he played on as a young boy. Father Denny and mother Marlene, along with sisters Brie Gunther and Dee Datus were honoured by the organization’s effort.

“It was emotional but just the gratitude that they would be willing to do that,” said Denny.

Marlene said Pannenbecker’s goal was to see the Stampeders become a serious competitor in the Junior B hockey league. “Most people don’t realize that Damian’s goal was to make the Stampeders better for the last year and a half.”

He spent many hours promoting the club and recruiting players to the Stampeders.

“It means a lot to us because this team meant so much to him,” said Marlene.

Pannenbecker was so dedicated to the team, he even recruited his father, who has now accepted the position as manager for the team.

“It’s something I enjoy doing, I always have,” said Denny.

The family and organization have become closer because of Damian’s death and his sister Dee has also taken a role with the team; she will be promoting the Stampeders on Twitter, on Facebook and on their website.

“The family’s always going to be connected to this team,” stated Brie.

“He breathed hockey,” added Dee.

Moving on

Since his death, family members say there isn’t a day they don’t think of Damian and always in a positive light. Brie says there are tough days though when they realize he will not be returning home.

“It’s just trying to figure out how to live our lives that would make him happy,” explained Brie.

She says he was not one who would want them to be unhappy. Instead, Brie says they bring up fun memories and anecdotes about her brother.

Damian’s jersey, number 17, has since been retired and organizers want to honour his name this upcoming hockey season.

The home opener Sept. 27 against the Blackfalds Wranglers will be one to remember; a large banner has been printed honouring Pannenbecker, who grew up playing minor hockey in Blackfalds.

In further remembrance of his memory, the Stampeders have renamed their annual Top Defenseman Award to the Damian Pannenbecker Defenseman Award.

“Those are the things that connect us to the Stampeders. They’re little, but they’re big,” stated Marlene.

Almost every team member from last year signed his jersey as well. The frame was the idea of director Debbie Lamey, who said Hockey Central framers in Sylvan Lake went above and beyond to ensure the gift would be something to remember.