B.C.’s junior hockey world is mourning Wayne Hubbard, longtime trainer for several teams in the province.
Known as “Wayner the Trainer,” Hubbard died Tuesday (April 19) while in hospice care, according to Delta Ice Hawks owner Eduard Epshtein, following a two-year battle with leukemia.
A Surrey resident, Hubbard retired from hockey in February 2020 at age 73, after five decades of sharpening skates, bandaging wounds and otherwise caring for teen hockey players and their equipment.
He’d been working dressing rooms and benches at one B.C. rink or another since the 1969-70 season of the Kelowna Packers. In his final four years, he was with the Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL).
Over 50 years, Hubbard worked for a half-dozen teams in Junior A and B hockey, including stops in Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley, Surrey, Ridge Meadows and Delta, for a grand total of around 6,000 games and practices.
“I figure I’ve done around 30,000 loads of laundry, all those jerseys and socks,” he said with a laugh in 2020.
“I’ll be going from 100 miles an hour to zero right away,” Hubbard said of his retirement. “That’s going to be the hard part for me. I mean, if I was a lot healthier I would have probably stayed another year, but I got diagnosed with leukemia in December. So my doctors are on my case about continuing. I figured there’s no better time to end it.”
Junior hockey’s "Wayner the trainer" exits after 50 years in the game. "I figure I’ve done around 30,000 loads of laundry," Surrey resident Wayne Hubbard says with a laugh. @deltaicehawks @Pacific_Junior @GoBCHL @bchockeyhub @SurreyEagles @kyleturris https://t.co/qyUtEKAfu8 pic.twitter.com/F5P7YvrfjJ
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) February 13, 2020
Hubbard had been a hockey trainer pretty much fulltime since retiring from Fraser Health’s payroll department at age 57, in the mid-2000s.
Never married, Hubbard made hockey his life.
“I have all the kids I need here every year, but at least they can go home to their parents every night and I don’t have to deal with them, because they can be a handful sometimes,” he said in 2020. “Every year you get a different bunch with a different attitude, different mix, everything. Most of the players are good kids.”
Epshtein said a celebration of life for Hubbard will be held this summer.
We are sorry to share that we have lost a member of our Ice Hawks family.
Trainer Wayne Hubbard passed away last week after a hard fight against cancer. We send our our condolences to his family.
We’ll miss you, Wayner. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/0z3FRixX5Z
— Delta Ice Hawks (@deltaicehawks) April 25, 2022
Wayner was a gem. The original @BCHLExpress trainer who did two stints the team. A hockey lifer who was tough as nails but a ❤️ of gold. The hockey world was a better place because you were in it. Rest easy my friend you fought like a champ. Thanks for your friendship ❤️. https://t.co/2Fi6uEwaHr
— Eddie Gregory (@EddieGregory81) April 25, 2022
I got to spend almost an entire day with Wayne when he was with the then Burnaby Express and I was freelancing for the @BCHockeyLeague website. Great guy and very patient with an annoying student. RIP – https://t.co/DxP7JzswJo https://t.co/I6r8GKyYEy
— Ben Lypka (@BenLypka) April 25, 2022
Rest in peace Wayner 😔💔…One of a kind and really enjoyed being around him with the @LangleyRivermen . The hockey world lost a great one
— Brandon Astle (@brandon_astle) April 25, 2022
Wayner is family. He worked Global for over 20 years from the very first camp. He was alongside with our family for many years in Junior hockey. He was such a caring person and many will always remember him around the rink and his players that he was always there for. https://t.co/R1XW0kC3ah
— Global Hockey Camps (@Globalcamps) April 25, 2022
“Such a wonderful human being,” Christy Wiseman-Hasselmann posted on Facebook. “So many fond memories of this man. The hockey world lost another great today.”
Added Roy Henderson: “Wayne was a great people person! Always the adult in the room! Great knowing a man so well respected! Hockey lost a good man.”
Eddie Gregory posted: “What a great friend to the hockey community.”