With three generations of hockey players now in the family and a cross-Canada connection to the game, Williams Lake’s Blaine and Donna Flett can proudly say the sport has been an integral part of their lives for decades.
Growing up in New Brunswick, Blaine played hockey for Harkins High School in Miramichi, N.B., and was part of a team that won a provincial championship during his Grade 12 year in 1959/60.
Their two sons, Aaron and Jason, both have careers playing and coaching hockey at a high level and, now, Blaine and Donna’s six grandchildren are enjoying the game that has helped tie the family together for years.
When Blaine and Donna moved to Williams Lake in 1966, it just so happened they purchased a home directly across the street from the old hockey arena in Williams Lake on Fourth Avenue.
It didn’t take long for Blaine, a high school teacher by trade, to get involved with minor hockey in the city.
“After Harkins High I went on to play at Mt. Allison University (Sackville, N.B.), played a couple games of major junior, then went to an NHL tryout camp held in Moncton one spring, but when I came here I got into the coaching aspect of the game,” Blaine said.
Blaine’s foray into coaching began just a few short months after his arrival in Williams Lake when some of his students were complaining one day they had no team to play for.
“They were midget-aged [players],” he said. “So, myself and Fred McMechan, we went over to the arena one night and took over the team. We were called the Williams Lake Spurs back then, and we started the first team in 1968.”
His coaching career, and involvement with minor hockey in Williams Lake, spanned roughly two decades.
“I coached probably five or six years when we first came here, then got into business, and then picked it right up again when Jason and Aaron started hockey.”
Aaron was born in 1971 and Jason was born in 1975.
“When they started I probably coached 15 to 18 years altogether,” Blaine said.
Aaron played minor hockey in Williams Lake up until his bantam season, before focusing on school sports. He’d later return to hockey after finishing university and moving to Prince George where he’s now on the executive with the Prince George Minor Hockey Association and has four boys — Adam, 15, Braden, 13, Cole, 8, and Devin, 5 — all playing the game.
“He’s coached all the way up,” Blaine said. “He was volunteer of the year for PGMHA two years ago and he’s still coaching with all four of his boys still playing.”
Jason, meanwhile, also ascended the ranks of the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association’s rep divisions before deciding in Grade 11 he wanted to try his hand at a high level of hockey.
That year, he enroled as a student at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask. and, subsequently, as a player for the Notre Dame Hounds hockey team at the school. He later moved on to play university hockey at Augustana in Alberta.
“After he graduated from university later on he settled in 100 Mile House with his two boys, Kai and Xander,” Blaine said.
“Jason’s now coached several divisions in 100 Mile House, probably for about nine years.”
Blaine’s grandson, Kai, is now a goaltender for this year’s Williams Lake Bantam Timberwolves as there was no team for him to tryout for in 100 Mile House this year.
Blaine hasn’t missed a practice, or a game — home or away.
But it was Donna, throughout the years, who has always been the glue that held the family together, Blaine said.
“That first couple teams we coached, we’d have an early morning practice and all the boys would come over to the house,” Blaine recalled. “Donna would make a huge feast of pancakes for the kids, and they’d be on their way.”
“We spent a lot of time in hockey rinks over the years,” Donna added. “We’d drive 20 hours to watch Jason play in Saskatchewan.”
Even last season when Kai was playing in 100 Mile House, Blaine would make the drive south every Tuesday to watch his grandson practice — sometimes not arriving back home to Williams Lake until midnight.
“I still haven’t missed a practice yet, and I haven’t missed a game. We go up north to watch the other grandkids play, and we’ve just done so many things in the sport and spent so much time with minor hockey, it’s a way of life.”