Gary Thibault’s last duty as Recreation Facilities Superinten-dent before his retirement earlier this month—to pick up the Memorial Sports Centre’s new Zamboni and take the old one out to pasture—signified an all-too perfect end to a long career.
“Me and the [old] Zamboni were put to bed on the same day. There might be some connection there, that’s for sure,” the 61-year-old said with a laugh—just one week after calling it a career after 29 years.
“I didn’t get to resurface the rink with the new Zamboni but I did take it out for one ride, though,” he added.
That one capped off roughly 16,000 total rides for Thibault over the years (based on a 20 per week average over 29 seven-month years).
“I felt it was time [to retire]. I’m 61 and I’ve put in enough years,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of fun from the variety of things I learned to all the job’s challenges.”
Thibault grew up in Winnipeg and worked as a radio operator for a transport company in the region before moving here in the early 1970s. He spent a year working for the local police department before joining the Memorial Arena staff as an assistant manager to then-superintendent Metro Wow-chuk.
“We were certainly a pair. It was a lot of fun to work under him,” he recalled of his 23 years working for “Svet” before taking over from him in 1996.
“He was a good, reliable worker,” recalled Wowchuk, 70. “He learned as we went along through the years.
“I wouldn’t say he learned from the best but he definitely learned,” he added.
Thibault finished his last two years working with longtime lead hand Graham Matheson and assistant attendant Shane Dustak. And he’s seen a lot of good change over the years since those starting days as his job title switched from “manager” to “superintendent.”
“[The job is] much busier now. It has changed quite a bit over the years,” Thibault remarked. “Back then, there was a little bit of outdoor stuff. Now there’s two rinks along with the pool and all the exercise equipment and all the soccer fields.
“The level of activity in this town has grown by leaps and bounds over the years,” he added.
And believe it or not, in a hockey town known by some as “Muskie country,” the town’s iceman isn’t the biggest hockey fan.
“I’m just a hockey worker, not particularly a hockey fan,” admitted Thibault. “I’ve enjoyed the Muskies and rooted for them but that’s about it.
“When they have a good game going, I always took some time to catch the action.”
One of Thibault’s more memorable moments was watching the black-and-gold capture all-Ontario gold here in 1989. “That was a fun thing to be a part of,” he said.
Preferring to be the quiet, behind-the-scenes type, Thibault said he did enjoy his last day April 10 when town employees threw him in the spotlight, holding a luncheon in his honour.
“It really was nice of them to do that. They gave me a new set of luggage for travelling, which was ideal.”
As a new retiree, Thibault plans on staying in town for now while going out west to visit family and play some golf in Manitoba and British Columbia.