Over the sound of hockey bags rolling past and students walking out of the arena giving him their self-guided assessments of how they thought they did on the ice that day, Lake City Secondary School teacher Terry Duff guesses he’s taught close to 1,000 kids in the local school hockey program so far.
The program, which was started about 10 years ago in Williams Lake for students in Grade 8 and above as an alternative to PE class, has 140 students in it this year and continues to grow in popularity, likely due to the perfect match between teacher and student.
Duff is funny, calm, and you won’t find anyone who loves hockey more than him.
“It’s always fun and it takes my mind off the stresses of life because it gives me a break thinking about work, even if work is hockey. I can forget about whatever problems I have. I can just go play.”
Duff was born and raised in Williams Lake by his parents, two longtime doctors; Dr. Judy Bannerman and Dr. Norm Duff, and has a brother, Gordie.
“There was no pressure,” Duff said when asked if his parents wanted him to become a doctor. “I could do anything I wanted but I was encouraged to get an education. My dad made us a rink year after year, but I had to get my homework done first.”
Duff started playing hockey at eight years old, and played rep hockey through his teenage years before leaving for university for a year.
“The first year I went to school I took sciences then I floundered,” Duff said of his first year at UBC. “I attribute it to not having hockey to de-stress.”
Duff moved back home for two years, worked for Canadian 2-For 1 Pizza and found himself back on the ice with the Williams Lake Stampeders for a total of five years.
“I loved it. It grew my love for hockey even more because it was such a good group of guys,” Duff said of his time with the Stampeders. “Everyone was friends on the team and I just loved going on road trips with them.”
Duff said during those two years back at home he thought about what he wanted for a career.
“Actually Mr. Gaylord was my PE teacher and I always thought what an awesome job he had and what an awesome person he was, so I wanted to go back to school and become a PE teacher.”
To become a teacher is five years in post secondary education but it took Duff eight because he never took a full course load in order to make time for drop-in hockey, one time playing on four rec teams in one season.
Duff married his wife Desiree, an RN, who he met in Williams Lake, and they went to university together.
“We met at the Overlander Pub where most marriages are created,” Duff said. “Her mom used to work there so she would sneak us in the back door. We didn’t have to wait in line.”
Once they finished school the Duffs returned to Williams Lake and Terry taught elementary school at Nesika one year before moving to high school where he taught film and TV, social studies, math and, over time, the hockey program.
“Then just more and more kids signed up for hockey so more and more classes were added to the hockey program.”
Getting hit in the face with a puck has been the biggest downside.
“I was just minding my own business doing a drill and a puck came flying and hit me in the face,” he said. “But that’s part of the job.”
These days Duff is on the ice four to five hours per day, five days per week between his teaching job, his own hockey team and coaching his daughter’s team.
He and his wife are raising three girls; Rylee, Hayley – spelled after Hayley Wickenheiser former caption of Team Canada – and Hannah.
“My dream is that they are going to be a line for Team Canada. The Duff sisters, but I’m not unreasonable, they can choose if they want to be all forwards or if they want to be forward, defence, goalie. Whatever combo they want, but they’re all making it.”
Duff said he believes it is important to play all sports which is why the program incorporates some gym time as well as dryland training.
“Sometimes kids don’t like a certain sport and rather than forcing them to do it we’re giving them an opportunity to do what they want to do and they love to do,” he said. “I think the kids love it, and just judging by the way the numbers are trending upward, that’s good feedback to me.”
Read More: HOMETOWN: Leading his community