It was on a hockey barnstorming tour with his pro team, the Calgary Stampeders, that Walt Trentini fell in love with Vernon.
So much so, he called the woman who would become his life-long partner, wife Marie, and told her he could get a job during the day and play senior hockey at night for a cut of the gate receipts from home games at the old Civic Arena.
“This is where we need to be. We gotta move here. This is where I want to live,” said Walt to Marie, as told by the Trentini’s son, Rod.
Walt, one of three surviving members of the 1956 Allan Cup Canadian Senior Hockey Champion Vernon Canadians, died Nov. 20 at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, exactly two weeks after his 90th birthday. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
Born Nov. 6, 1932 in Lethbridge, Trentini played junior hockey in the defunct Western Canada Junior Hockey League, first with the Crow’s Nest Pass Lions in 1950-51, then the community’s other team, the Crow’s Nest Pass Coalers, before joining the Stampeders of the old Western Professional Hockey League.
While he was playing junior hockey in Crow’s Nest Pass, Marie was attending nursing school in Lethbridge and living with Trentini’s parents.
Trentini was drafted by the National Hockey League’s Chicago Black Hawks. But it was while on that fun tour of the Okanagan he discovered ex-pros like Frank King, Tom Stecyk and Odie Lowe were playing in Vernon, and decided the Okanagan was where he wanted to be.
In his first season in Vernon, Trentini helped the Canadians win the Allan Cup, defeating Ontario’s Chatham Maroons in the best-of-seven championship played in Vernon.
In 1960, as a member of the Canadians, he played for the Kelowna All-Stars in a 5-1 win on Jan. 25, 1960 over the touring Moscow Selects at the Kelowna Memorial Arena.
Trentini had a stint with the Trail Smoke Eaters after they won the World Hockey Championship in 1961, and the International Hockey League’s Omaha Knights in 1962-63, where he scored five times in 27 games. Then, Trentini moved back to Vernon. And he never left.
Trentini became a welder at the urging of his father, Carl, who owned a welding shop and a sports store in Lethbridge, and was also president of the Lethbridge Sugar Kings hockey club, which evolved into the Swift Current Broncos. In Vernon, he spent his welding career with Galbraith and Sons, originally located downtown before moving out to a shop in Highway 6.
“His dad always said that you can’t play hockey forever,” said Rod, 61. “He told dad to play while he can but to have something to fall back on, so he got his welding ticket.”
Trentini would play oldtimers hockey for years with the Vernon Pucksters, stopping only when the younger players started coming out, and golfed every spring and summer with his buddies at the Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club.
He also became a well-known Vernon Minor Hockey coach, guiding the likes of goalie Ken Holland, now the president of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, and his son. Trentini was behind the bench when Vernon won the Coca Cola Classic Winter Carnival Pee Wee Hockey Tournament’s Amy Myles A Division trophy for the first time in 1973.
“He was a major influence in my life. As good a coach as he was, he was an even better human being.”
Trentini was on the ice at Kal Tire Place five years ago on Dec. 1, 2017, with former Vernon teammates Bidoski, Stecyk and Lowe – the final four Canadians survivors – as the team was finally recognized for their Allan Cup achievement with a banner-raising ceremony at Kal Tire Place.