Former NHLer a leader on and off the ice
Hockey: Lt. Col. Ed Staniowski keynote speaker at charity event
By: John Barlow
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 03, 2012 10:48 am
He was likely the only Canadian youngster who was unable to serve in the army because he was drafted.
Lt. Col. Ed Staniowski was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Spider Hockey charity gala in Okotoks on Sept. 24 and the former National Hockey League goaltender spoke of what it takes to succeed on and off the ice.
Staniowski’s military career was delayed when he was a first round draft choice of the St. Louis Blues in 1975 after winning a Memorial Cup with the Regina Pats. After a 10-year professional hockey career, which included stops in St. Louis, Winnipeg and Hartford, Staniowski had a storied career in the Canadian Armed Forces.
One might think professional hockey and the military are worlds apart, but Staniowski said there are valuable lessons to be learned in both.
“We often compare playing hockey as going to war, but for those who have gone to war for real the consequences of pro hockey and being a soldier are dramatically different,” he said. “But there are similar qualities for hockey players and soldiers — focus, dedication, commitment. There are sacrifices for both, but sadly the consequences are far more dire in the military.”
Staniowski said he was fortunate to enjoy a successful hockey career, but it has been a privilege to serve the Canadian military.
“When you are in a place like Bosnia and you take a platoon to the field their success or failure depends on preparation. There is huge responsibility and you better be a leader,” he explained. “You must be willing to stand with those who are prepared to stand with you. It is humbling.”
The former netminder explained in sports one is expected to succeed, but in the military one must succeed.
“The consequences of second place in the field are very dire,” he said.
Staniowski knows the price Canadian soldiers pay first hand. Since joining the military in 1985 he has served on seven operational deployments including United Nations and NATO missions in The Middle East (1991), Croatia (1992), Bosnia (1996) and Sierra Leone (2004). His most recent overseas deployments were to Afghanistan with the International Stabilization Forces in 2008 and 2010.
He is currently director of primary reserve training at the Canadian Land Force Command and Staff College in Kingston, ON.
It is not surprising Staniowski went into the military after his playing days. His parents both served in the military during World War II and his sibling also served. Also, his wife Capt. Gillian Parker is a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
In fact, he planned on entering the military after his junior hockey career, but he was drafted to the NHL before the army could get their hands on him.
“When I was playing junior hockey I was intent on going to military college,” he said. “As it turned out I was drafted and got to play in the NHL which is every kid’s dream; it was mine too and it happened.”
Staniowski had a solid Junior career with the Regina Pats where he was twice named a Western Canadian Hockey League all star and set records for most games played (206) and most wins by a goalie during his four-year career.
However, the highlight was winning the 1974 Memorial Cup with a team that included Dennis Sobchuk, Clark Gillies and Rob Tudor who now lives in Okotoks.
Tudor, who played for the Vancouver Canucks, organized the Spider Hockey event, which raised funds for Soldier On, a project helping injured veterans participate in sports. The event included a charity hockey game featuring NHL alumni, military personnel from across Canada and local residents, and a banquet in the evening.
Staniowski joked his dog could have won the Memorial Cup with the roster the Pats put on the ice in 1974. Perhaps, but it was not his dog the Blues drafted 27th overall and it was not his dog’s jersey the Pats retired in 2001.
He was eager to meet up with some of his old hockey buddies at the Spider Hockey event in Okotoks, some friends whom he has not seen in years.
“I felt like I was 20 years old again,” said Staniowski. “I have so much respect for these guys. They have done so much for Canada and their communities.”
During his pro hockey career Staniowski was named to Team Canada for the 1979 World Championships in the Soviet Union and he was awarded the Charlie Conacher Humanitarian Award in 1979.
However, it is his life in the military Staniowski finds most rewarded and would encourage any young person to follow in his path.
“If you think you want to be a leader I think the military is the ultimate test, although I sincerely hope you don’t get tested in the field,” he said. “If you want the opportunity to find out what you are made of I would encourage any young person to look into (the military).
“When you stand on the field in Kandahar and you see one of the fallen who has made the ultimate sacrifice you know you stand for something.”