By Joel van der Veen
KENASTON — Hundreds filled the Kenaston Arena on Saturday night to pay tribute to a coach, teammate, neighbour and friend.
Longtime Blizzards player and coach Dean Blenkinsop was honoured with a brief ceremony at the rink, to retire his number and to recognize his years of service to hockey in Kenaston.
The ceremony was held the night of Oct. 28, prior to a senior hockey exhibition game between the Kenaston Blizzards and the Loreburn 19ers.
Introduced by former teammate Mark Asbjornhus, Blenkinsop walked onto the ice with his wife Michelle following closely behind him.
He stood quietly while the players on the ice and the crowd — estimated at more than 350 people — paid tribute with a standing ovation.
Following a slideshow of photos, a banner was unveiled at the far end of the rink, bearing Blenkinsop’s name and the number 10.
Dean then spoke briefly, thanking the team for the tribute, and saying, “Let’s have a fun night.”
Asbjornhus said the tribute was a “group effort,” calling Dean an “unbelievable guy” who has dedicated many years to the community.
“We’ve been talking about retiring his jersey for a while,” Asbjornhus said, adding as he looked over the crowd on Saturday night, “It seems to be coming together pretty good.”
Blenkinsop, 46, grew up in Hawarden and began playing senior hockey with the Blizzards in the late 1980s.
He continued with the team over the next 25 years, moving off the ice into coaching four years ago.
He was first diagnosed with colon cancer nine years ago, and has been battling the disease on and off since then.
Blenkinsop said he has been open about his fight with cancer, adding that he and his family have received plenty of support from the community.
He and Michelle have three daughters, ranging in age from nine to 13 years, while Michelle also has a 24-year-old son.
Blenkinsop said prior to the ceremony that organizers had kept most of their plans a secret.
“They just told me to show up tonight,” he said. “It’s exciting.”
Afterward, he said he enjoyed the ceremony, adding that the banner was a nice surprise touch. Read more