Local hockey coaches remember beloved colleague
Cory Goertzen was considered the rock of the Airdrie Atom Rednecks hockey team, according his fellow coaches.
An assistant coach with the team, Goertzen, 39, was killed in a car collision west of Airdrie, Jan. 9. (See related story on page 2).
Goertzen spent several years as a volunteer, coach and manager with Airdrie Minor Hockey and coached alongside Jeff Robson, the head coach of the Atom Rednecks, for nearly five years. Robson said Goertzen was shy and quiet, but was always ready and willing to volunteer and dedicated to the team.
“He enjoyed the fact that he flew under the radar,” Robson said. “He wasn’t looking for attention and he was a modest guy. I don’t know a soul that could say a bad word about that guy.
“The thing that stands out about him was that he could be counted on. Everybody’s lives are busy and he wasn’t any less busy. He had his own family, but he never missed a practice and never missed a game.”
“He gave more time (to the team) than he probably could,” echoed team manager Dave Darbel.
A quiet, serious-looking gentleman away from the rink, Darbel said that once Goertzen was behind the bench, it brought about his fun spirit and love of the game.
One story Darbel shared was during a tournament game, in an intermission, Robson turned to the ice and the players were dancing across the ice and not lining up for the opening faceoff.
When he turned back to the bench, Goertzen was behind him egging them on, which garnered a laugh from all the coaches. Robson said Goertzen was a hockey fan, but one who didn’t take the game too seriously and kept the mood light on the ice and on the bench.
He also said Goertzen’s dedication to the game and the team stemmed from a love of working with the kids.
“He always favoured the odd duckling,” Robson said. “He was always looking for the special quality in the odd kid, maybe the one that didn’t quite fit in. He found positives in everyone. As a head coach, you don’t get to dig deep into (the personalities) of every kid. He developed special bonds with some of those kids.”
The Rednecks played its first game after Goertzen’s passing Jan. 12, which it won 9-2. The coaching staff debated whether or not to postpone the game, but the players ultimately decided they wanted to play the game to honour their coach.
“Cory would’ve wanted us back out there,” Darbel said.
“We told the kids they weren’t expected to show up at the rink and we didn’t want to put any pressure on them. But we decided to go ahead and give them some normalcy back. We told them to do the things coach Cory would’ve told them to: to play hard and have fun, and that’s what they did.”
Goertzen is survived by his wife, Audrey, and their five children.