Brock Hirsche wanted to play hockey and make some friends.
On Oct. 26 at Nicholas Sheran Arena, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men’s hockey team honoured the memory of their former captain, who passed away in April after a battle with testicular cancer.
Prior to puck drop of the Horns Canada West game against the Calgary Dinos, the team paid tribute to Hirsche, retiring his No. 10 jersey, the first ever lifted to the rafters of Nicholas Sheran Arena.
Led by Hirsche’s father, Tim, and mother, Sharla, the Pronghorns unveiled the banner which will hang in perpetuity at Nicholas Sheran.
After the official unveiling of the banner and the ceremonial faceoff, the remaining members of the Pronghorns joined Tim and Sharla along with Pronghorns athletic director Ken McInnes for a team photo.
Tim said his son never would have expected this.
“Brock just wanted to play some hockey and make some friends. Brock loved hockey and left all his teammates.”
The night of Oct. 26, that feeling was mutual with numerous Pronghorns alumni out to celebrate the life of their teammate who left his mark on the program.
“It’s just a great honour,” said Sharla. “It makes me so proud as a mom. I just realized how he touched everybody and it’s really special.”
Prior to his passing, Hirsche established the Brock Hirsche Pronghorn Hockey Award, a scholarship fund that has now raised more than $103,000.
“Certainly we would’ve not have known what to expect, said Tim of the award. “We really hadn’t given it much thought. I think Brock and (Pronghorns alumnus) Brad Cox envisioned reaching maybe $40,000 or something like that and for it to get where it has gotten is totally unbelievable.”
Current Pronghorn Russell Maxwell, who scored his team’s only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Dinos, played alongside Hirsche.
“It’s something you don’t necessarily want to be a part of, but I felt it was a privilege to be playing in honour of someone with character of Brock,” said Maxwell, who remembers his teammate and friend as a light-hearted person who nonetheless loved to compete.
“You knew if you weren’t bringing it you could look to him and he was somebody who was playing his hardest always and someone you could count on and wanted to be around.”
Pronghorns play-by-play man Ryan O’Donnell said there were plenty of emotions surrounding Friday’s ceremony.
“Brock was one of my best friends and someone I golfed with at last once or twice a week,” he said. “My last two rounds this year I played with his dad and I played with his mom on Sunday, too. It was nice to do that. Tim actually beat me on Sunday, so that was kind of funny.
“I miss him every day and think about him every day. He didn’t have a best friend, but he had a lot of guys he was close with and I think that just goes to show the type of person he was in the sense he liked to be around everybody. Honestly, every time I come to the rink I still think about him standing up in the far corner having some beers and cheering on the boys every time they score. I miss him and know the guys miss him and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t put up a better result tonight for Brock and his family.”
In the Oct. 26 game, the Dinos scored twice in first period and opened up a 3-0 lead early in the second en route to the win that improved them to 4-2-0-1 and dropped the Horns to 2-5-0-0.
“That was a good team we were up against,” said Maxwell, whose goal was his first of the season. “I thought there were moments we competed well and we were executing. But there were too many moments where our execution wasn’t where we wanted it to be and maybe our effort can be better.”
In the return game Oct. 27 in Calgary, the Horns were blanked 3-0 by the Dinos.
In the women’s game in Calgary on Oct. 26, the Pronghorns snapped a five-game losing streak and picked up the shutout in the process with a 4-0 decision over the Dinos.
Pronghorns leading scorer Tricia Van Vaerenbergh and Alli Borrow each scored twice in the win, while goaltender Alicia Anderson turned aside all 20 shots she faced for the shutout.
The next night in Lethbridge, the Pronghorns stopped Calgary again, 1-0, with a third-period goal by Jordan Doram accounting for the scoring. The win moved the Horns to 3-4-1-0.