Dave ‘Radar’ Horning has been the equipment manager for the Rebels since 1995 and has been in the WHL since 1991. Recently, he was awarded a plaque for 1,500 games of service to the league. Horning said it doesn’t feel like it has been that many games.
“No it doesn’t and actually the 1,500 games was accumulated five years ago. I am closer to the 2,000 mark now,” he said, adding he was lucky enough to be given a chance in the league by the Prince Albert Raiders organization back in 1991.
“I was in the league prior to the Red Deer Rebels,” he explained. “I started in Prince Albert after graduating from university. The door opened up and I spent four years there. After Red Deer had been in the league for a couple years, they were looking to re-hire somebody and because I grew up Innisfail – it didn’t take me too long to jump at the opportunity to move back to God’s country.”
Horning noted being able to stay in the sport was very important to him after his playing days were over.
“I grew up playing the sport and I tried my best to carry on playing,” he said. “Size and stature put the brakes on that for me but then I decided I want to stick with in it somehow. I went to school and got a degree in physical education, which is now the kinesiology route. That opened some doors for me to stay in the hockey world. I love coming to the rink like I did when I was a teenager.”
Throughout his time with the Rebels, Horning has seen players, coaches, general managers and owners come and go from the organization.
“I started with the Simpson family when Wayne and Terry were owners and then once Brent (Sutter) purchased the team, he decided to keep me on,” Horning explained. “I guess I have been doing a good job or fooling a lot of people. It has been a good ride and hopefully it keeps going.”
In 26 years, Horning has seen the evolution of hockey and hockey equipment right in front of his eyes.
“When I first started in the league, most of the teams only had a one person system,” he said. “The one guy was doing both jobs of therapist and the equipment manager – the den mother of the kids. Now over the course of the last decade, more and more teams are going to two man system so now you can actually focus on one aspect of the job.”
The way the game has been played and the requirements on the training and equipment staff has also drastically changed, according to Horning.
“When I first started it was little more physical to be honest,” he said. “You had three to four guys that were there to police the ice surface and were not afraid to drop the gloves. You had games where you would see four to five fights – that has changed and I believe probably for the better. Over the course of the last while, there has been more emphasis put on head injuries so that aspect has changed.”
He added the, “Training that the players put into their off-season to be in better shape”, has also changed.
From an equipment perspective, Horning said the tools of the trade have completely changed.
“I was there in the days of wood sticks,” he said. “Things have changed so much. A lot of the kids in this dressing room probably haven’t even touched a wood stick. Everything has become lighter and more protective – I have been able to see a bit.”
Horning looks forward to working with the Rebels and the WHL for years to come.
“I sure hope so. If I can keep fooling people, then hopefully I will get another 1,500 games in,” he said, adding working with the young athletes in the league has been a pleasure.
“Watching them come in here as teenage boys and leaving as men moving on to the NHL, university or doing whatever has been very rewarding,” he said.