Dedicated family man leaves lasting hockey legacy

Okotoks: Greg Wedderburn passes away, memorial Friday at 1 p.m.


By John Barlow, Okotoks Western Wheel

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The fact he was born in the High River Hospital was still a sore point for one of Okotoks’ most dedicated and community-minded citizens.

Greg Wedderburn passed away on Feb. 2 at the age of 64 with family and friends at his Okotoks home after a seven-year battle with kidney cancer.

When it comes to his community Wedderburn is described as dedicated, committed, proud and passionate.

“What stood out for me was it didn’t matter what Greg was doing he was committed 100 per cent whether it was playing or coaching hockey or sitting on a board,” said long-time friend Brian Miller. “He was a dedicated guy and he was always looking for a way to make things better.”

Wedderburn was born and raised in Okotoks, one of five siblings to parents Lawrie and Betty Wedderburn. The family still farms just north of Okotoks.

For Wedderburn, much of his life was focused on family and hockey.

“He was very proud of his family,” said Miller. “And he was an Oiler through and through.”

A teacher with the Foothills School Division for 30 years, Wedderburn and his wife of 37 years Kathy had two children Tim and Ange. They also have two grandchildren, Madison, 4, and Ryder, 1.

His family was his pride and joy while hockey was clearly his passion.

“He was a hockey guy,” said Ange, who is married and now lives in Edmonton. “It absolutely rubbed off on us. We pretty much lived our lives around hockey.”

Wedderburn had a solid hockey career playing Junior for the Victoria Cougars before returning home to play with the Okotoks Oilers who dominated Senior hockey in Alberta in the mid-1970s winning provincial titles from 1974 to 1976.

After a prolific playing career Wedderburn turned to coaching. He was behind the bench at every level from Senior with the Oilers, university at Calgary to Junior with the Okotoks 85ers. He also coached his son throughout minor hockey up to Bantam AAA.

“Greg was a dog with a bone as a coach,” said his wife Kathy. “He was an incredibly tough coach who demanded 100 per cent from all his players.

“He was probably tougher on his own kid,” she added with a laugh.

That is likely true, but for Tim he relished the time he was able to spend with his father at the rink or on the road.

“There were some times we swore at each other I am sure of that,” he said. “And there were some pretty quiet drives home. But I look back on it and I was very fortunate to have him as a coach and I know he loved every minute of it.”

For many families summer holiday road trips were meant to see lakes, amusement parks and fairs.

For Wedderburn, no matter where they travelled, his top priority was to see what he felt was every town’s top tourist attraction — the community rink.

There is likely not an arena in the prairies he has not visited.

Whether it was following his son’s career from Prince George to Chicago to Scotland or watching youth play in Okotoks Wedderburn was always home in an arena.

Especially when his Oilers were on the ice.

After the demise of Okotoks’ Senior hockey team Wedderburn spearheaded a group of local investors to bring Junior A hockey to Okotoks.

After years of leg work the group was finally successful and Wedderburn could not have been more proud.

He was not adverse to getting his hands dirty when it came to ensuring the Oilers were successful. He was always working to improve the team and the facilities building locker rooms, stick racks, railings, trophy cases and anything else the team needed.

“Anything he could do to help the Oilers he would do,” said Kathy.

It was much the same for his family.

Wedderburn was quite ill over the past few years, but family milestones inspired him to continue his fight. He wanted to see the birth of his grandchildren and he wanted to be a part of his daughter’s wedding.

“He got to see his daughter get married last summer, he got to walk her down the aisle and that meant the world to him,” said Kathy. “He was so proud.”

Ange remembers dancing with her father that day.

“He leaned over and said people wouldn’t even know he had a bad hip because we looked so good,” she said.

For Wedderburn his family was truly his life’s passion and arguably none more so than his two grandchildren, Madison and Ryder.

They provided a shining light to their “Pappa” as they crawled on his bed, fetched his ginger ale and taught each other to whistle.

This past Christmas was the first time in 12 years the family was all together in Okotoks to celebrate the holidays. It was certainly a time the Wedderburn family will cherish as they remember Greg.

Wedderburn was a pillar within the Okotoks community, a dedicated hockey fan and a beloved husband, father and grandpa. He will be missed.

“He was just so proud to an Okotokian,” said Kathy. “He was born and raised here, on that farm, and it means everything to him.”

A memorial for Greg Wedderburn will be held on Friday, Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. at the Foothills Centennial Centre in Okotoks.