Athletes connect with fans at Kinsmen sports dinner
by Phil Ambroziak
He may be known for his antics on the ice, but – during a recent visit to Meadow Lake – former NHL enforcer Dave “Tiger” Williams was more interested in discussing the sport of chuckwagon racing than he was hockey.
Williams, a forward with several NHL teams throughout his career, was one of two special guests to attend the Meadow Lake Kinsmen Club’s annual Sports Dinner June 12 at the Meadow Lake Civic Centre. And, he said, it was his love for chuckwagon racing that ultimately convinced him to take part.
“The biggest influence on me saying yes to this event was simply the respect I have for the professional chuckwagon guys from this area – Ray Mitsuing, Jerry Bremner, the Gorst and Nolin families, all of them,” Williams remarked. “I used to go on tour with Jerry during the off-season (from hockey), but this is the first time I’ve ever actually been to Meadow Lake.”
Williams, who is originally from Weyburn, SK, keeps a map on the wall in his home. On that map, he’s placed a pin for every place he’s ever played hockey including his days as a minor hockey player all the way up to his time as a pro.
“Meadow Lake was one spot I never got to, but I enjoy going to new places and meeting new people,” he said. “I haven’t toured with the chuckwagons for probably four or five years now, but that’s mainly because I have four grandchildren now who spend a lot of time with me. They stay with me all summer.”
Williams was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1974. In 1980 he was traded to Vancouver and would go on to play for Detroit, Los Angeles and Hartford until his retirement in 1988.
Upon arriving in Meadow Lake, Williams drove around town to take in the sights.
“I was impressed,” he added. “I love the bucking bronco (statue) at the end of the main drag.”
When on stage to address the close to 150 people on hand for the dinner, Williams, of course, did share several stories about the sport that made him famous all for the sake of entertainment.
“I’m not a preacher – I’m kind of all over the map with what I talk about,” he added. “This is a fun night and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Also part of the festivities was former Saskatchewan Roughrider Mike McCullough. He played 11 seasons in the CFL, all with the Riders, retiring in 2013. For several years he’s also devoted a considerable amount of time to different charities, particularly those which support research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. His son, Cole, who suffered from DMD and epilepsy, died in 2009 after suffering a seizure in his sleep. McCullough did talk about his son during his time on stage Friday night, but also stressed the importance of keeping things fun.
“I don’t have a huge message to share – it’s all about entertaining the fans and sharing funny stories,” McCullough said. “Without the support of the fans, sports wouldn’t exist. It’s nice to share my experiences with them and for them to share theirs with me.”
Earlier that day, McCullough also took time to visit with members of the Carpenter High School football team and share with them a little motivation for the future.
“It was nice to look into those kids’ eyes because, 20 years ago, I was in the same place they are now,” he said.
The fourth annual sports dinner served as a fundraiser for Lakeview Elementary School and also featured a silent auction. Kinsmen president Evan Haubrich confirmed close to $3,000 was raised.