GISS friends reunite in Colorado

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A group of friends who graduated from Gulf Islands Secondary School in the early 1980s were recently reunited during a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo.

Derek Walker, who lives in Colorado, was visiting Trevor Tamboline in Los Angeles when they wondered how they could have a reunion of their best buddies from high school.

As Tamboline explains, that’s when Walker pointed out that the NHL was having an outdoor “heritage game” between the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings in Colorado Springs on Feb. 15. 

So they called up Arnie Hengstler (living in Duncan), Rob Holmes (Salt Spring), Glenn Sollitt (Qualicum Beach), Bruce Hume (White Rock) and Johnny Villadsen (Salt Spring) to propose a get-together centred around the game.

“They are the best friends anyone on the planet could have,” said Tamboline. “Every single one of them.”

The group was a bit conspicuous at the NHL game, wearing things like red-plaid mackinaw-type jackets, Team Canada jerseys, and various types of headgear that blared their native land. Then there was the garb worn by Hengstler. He had commandeered a purple, pink and white suit jacket and pants with a snowflake and a deer pattern, just like one worn by Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada fame (or infamy).

“A friend who I ref basketball with here in Duncan had the suit and he was kind enough to lend it to me,” said Hengstler.

He walked around the whole stadium concourse wearing the suit. Some people got the joke and asked to have their photo taken with the Cherry look-alike. But of course Hockey Night in Canada is not a fixture in the U.S., so the connection wouldn’t have necessarily been made.

“Thank God we weren’t in Canada because he would have been mobbed,” said Tamboline.

The actual hockey game saw the Kings win by a 3-1 score. But the event garnered more attention for its poor traffic logistics, which saw some people wait in their vehicles for hours before being able to park and then see what was left of the game at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium. Fortunately, the GISS contingent went to the game early for fun activities, such as playing caps in the snowy parking lot.

Walker and his wife Beth were generous hosts to the large contingent.

“They really made us all feel welcome, and well fed,” said Tamboline.

The visitors also got to take in some sights like the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

“What a great time we had,” said Hengstler. “It was five days of constant laughs and reminiscing.”

“My face is still sore from laughing,” added Tamboline. “We thought it would be the time of our lives. It was better.”

All group members graduated in 1981, except Sollitt, who was in the  1982 class. They all played sports growing up together, and everyone except Villadsen was on the first GISS senior boys basketball team to be called the Scorpions. Before 1981, the school did not have a mascot. That team was also the first GISS basketball team to reach provincial championships, then at the single-A level.

According to a Driftwood story from March 4, 1981, other team members were  Kevin Kline, l.arry Spence, Clay Riley, Ross McFadyen and Tom Tranter.

With the Air Force Falcon mascot, from left, Trevor Tamboline, Derek Walker, Grapes (Arnie Hengstler), Rob Holmes, Bruce Hume, Glenn Sollitt, Mack Walker, Johnny Villadsen.
A fan recognizes a Canadian celebrity when he sees one at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium!
In the bleachers at the hockey game, from left, Derek Walker, Mack Walker, Rob Holmes, Grapes Hengstler, Bruce Hume, Trevor Tamboline, Glenn Sollitt and Johnny Villadsen.
Seen in Colorado Springs, Colo.: the one and only Don Cherry!
At the Colorado Springs NHL Heritage Classic between the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 15.
Meeting at the Denver airport are, from left, Johnny Villadsen, Derek Walker, Arnie Hengstler, Bruce Hume, Rob Holmes, Trevor Tamboline. (Glenn Sollitt, the seventh member of the group, had to come a day later.)
At the Garden of the Gods in Colorado are, from left, Arnie Hengstler, Bruce Hume, Derek Walker, Trevor Tamboline, Rob Holmes and Johnny Villadsen.

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