© Herald file photo
Don Wickens is seen selling poppies prior to Remembrance Day a few years ago.
As a founder of the Prince Albert Raiders hockey club and a veteran of the Second World War, Edward Donald Wickens’ biography is etched in history.
Best known as “Don,” Wickens died last week in Edmonton at the age of 91.
“He was a very understanding type of person,” local war veteran Ed Laird said, relaying one of many points he plans on including in Wickens’ eulogy.
“It was obvious he used to be a bank manager -- he was used to handling people’s problems,” he said. “He was easy to talk to -- a good (Royal Canadian Legion) member.”
Born in Moose Jaw in 1921, Wickens took an interest in hockey at an early age, playing junior hockey in the Moose Jaw Canucks before enlisting in the RCAF to become a navigator overseas, ultimately flying 37 missions over enemy territory.
In 1944, Wickens was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service -- one of only three veterans in Prince Albert to receive the commendation, Laird noted.
These two experiences -- hockey and military service -- came to define Wickens’ efforts over the years.
Settling into a career at the Bank of Montreal in Prince Albert, Wickens married Eileen in 1945 -- the two raising a family.
He was one of many veterans who came back home to Canada to better their communities, past mayor and longtime radio personality Jim Scarrow said.
“They were not only very active in terms of keeping Canada free and the world free as best they could, but came home and built a better country through their efforts,” he said.
Between responsibilities at the bank and with his family, Wickens help found the Prince Albert Raiders hockey club -- an effort that began in 1970, with the club officially forming in 1971.
“He was a major contributing factor to our success, and he offered our organization public accountability,” the club’s charter chair Reg Martsinkiw said.
At the time, the city was without an arena for junior hockey, with the Minto Arena burning down and the newly built Kinsmen Arena too small for junior hockey.
“We had no team in P.A.,” charter board member Eddie Habetler said.
“It was a period of close to eight or nine years there was no junior hockey team in P.A., and no hockey practically at all, because we didn’t have an arena.”
With the state of hockey in dire straits and at the behest of friend and local hockey pioneer Ches Leach, Wickens became treasurer of the Prince Albert Raiders hockey club, tapping into his banking skills.
“He made sure that every nickel we brought in ended up making another nickel,” Habetler said. “He was very shrewd that way. He didn’t believe that we should squander any money at all -- there were no freebees or giveaways at that time.
Everything Don did was a success, and that set a high precedents for our whole organization. Reg Martsinkiw
“He stood up for what he thought was right and made no bones about it. I really did admire him.”
Without an arena to play in, 1971 saw the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Prince Albert Raiders play away games, later moving into the Communiplex, which was later called the Art Hauser Centre after receiving major renovations.
Wickens stayed with the club until the ’80s, watching the club enter the Western Hockey League and becoming “a contributing factor to the initial success of the Prince Albert Raiders franchise,” Martsinkiw said.
“He managed the bank the same way -- with a high level of efficiency,” Wickens said. “Whenever he stepped in to do something he did so with a level of efficiency.
“He was a really, really good person if you kind of agreed with him, but if he had something to say, and you disagreed with something, he was very outspoken.
“I think everyone in our organization at that time was like that – we just weren’t afraid to vent, and as we vented the organization grew.”
In addition to countless volunteer hours building the Prince Albert Raiders organization, Wickens spent a fair amount of time at the local Royal Canadian Legion and ANAVETS clubs, Laird said.
Between 1982 and 1986, Wickens served as a city alderman in Prince Albert.
Although Wickens spent his final days close to family in Edmonton, Prince Albert remains the place where he made his greatest community impact.
As such, the Royal Canadian Legion Hall at 113 Eighth St. E. is hosting a memorial service on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Legion members have scheduled a meeting on Friday to finalize Wickens’ obituary.
“I think everybody respected him very much for the type of gentleman he was,” Habetler said.
“I think a lot of people will turn out for his memorial service because he was well-respected.”
Martsinkiw plans on wearing his 1971 Prince Albert Raiders tunic out of respect for Wickens.
“I don’t think there’s a club in all of Canada that has the dedicated support that we do,” he said, noting that he doesn’t know how the club would have turned out without Wickens’ eagle eye on its finances.
“Efficiency, respect, confidence and success,” he summarized. “Everything Don did was a success, and that set a high precedents for our whole organization.”