At the age of 88, Thunder Bay’s Jack Masters is taking a well-deserved retirement from a longtime volunteer position he has held for about 10 years.
As one of the oldest hockey players in the city, the iconic octogenarian is vacating an important role with the Thunder Bay Thunder senior hockey team, of which he has been a cherished member for the past few decades.
"He’s leaving us as manager of the team,” says teammate Ed Scheibler with an air of gratefulness. “He provided us with fun and assisted us in getting two teams together for the annual Snoopy Senior World Hockey Tournament in July.”
His team would like to celebrate his contributions in a unique way.
“We’re retiring jersey No. 31,” says Scheibler, explaining that the decision is in honor of his retirement from administrative duties. “(1931) happens to be the year he was born.”
With his expertise in managing people and tasks, Masters effectively dealt with challenging situations.
“He organized our team and kept a damper on riots amongst players,” says Scheibler with a laugh. “He brought character to the team. His presence had a calming effect on sometimes zealous players.”
Masters, who served as Thunder Bay’s mayor from 1985 to 1991, first took up organized hockey at the age of 34.
“Jack is still on the ice,” says Scheibler. “He started in 1994 (with the Thunder Bay Thunder).”
As team manager, he collected money for the skate and arranged for goalies, amongst other responsibilities.
His Thunder Bay Thunder teammates honored him in a get-together at the Da Vinci Centre after a game on Oct. 10.
“I’m overwhelmed,” says Masters of the surprise and outpouring of appreciation for his invaluable volunteer efforts. “It was a nice gesture.”
While he is stepping down from a leadership position, the avid hockey player will stay connected to the team.
“I’m still playing hockey at least once a week,” he says. “I only play for a half hour at a time.”
Best remembered perhaps for his expertise in endeavors off the ice, Masters considers himself to be a recreational hockey player.
“The only thing I could do reasonably well is pass,” he admits. “I’m an enthusiastic player but not a great hockey player.”
Instead, he left it to his son Scott, a two-time winner of the Allan Cup with the Thunder Bay Twins, to make the Masters name known in hockey circles. His older brother, Gerald, is also an accomplished player, who is now a member of various hockey groups in Toronto.
The older Masters says he skates for the exercise and enjoys the camaraderie.
“There are so many good people playing,” he says. “There’s such a variety of people playing, and so one common thing is our desire to play hockey as a group.”
Masters isn’t one to leave much idle time. He was president of the Thunder Bay Twins for one of their five Allen Cup wins and of the Port Arthur Bearcats. A hockey coach, he worked with youth up to 15 years of age at the Grandview Arena. At one time, he coached former National Hockey League player, the late Walt Puddubny.
In his childhood, Masters lived in Beardmore for six years while attending elementary school. A person of many talents, he started with CKPR radio as an announcer and took on multiple roles. He then moved over to CKPR TV on the air. He also became the general manager and worked in sales. Masters was the emcee for Fort William Male Choir performances and figure skating shows. He was a one-term Member of Parliament for the Liberals for the Thunder Bay-Nipigon riding, from 1980-84 before his stint as mayor.
A dedicated volunteer, he was involved in many community groups, like the Canadian Cancer Society. He provided several groups with assistance in getting started and served on different boards with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.
“I’ve always been strong about the community,” he says. “We forget how lucky we are to be in Thunder Bay and the many volunteers that make this community tick.”
Members of the Thunder look up to Masters and will miss his leadership, though they will still see him on the ice.
“He’s kind of an inspiration for everybody because he could’ve quit when he was in his late 60s or 70s,” says teammate Gerry Gormely. “He keeps going on. Jack has a lot of world experience in politics as a MP and as mayor. He knows a lot about things. We just like him. He’s such a nice person, such a positive person. We like having him around us.”
Teammate Jim Heino agrees.
“He’s such a nice guy — easy to talk to and knowledgeable,” he says.
While players on the Thunder Bay Thunder might come and go, Masters is a dependable face at the hockey arena, having worked tirelessly to promote senior hockey locally.
The Thunder Bay Thunder is looking to put together two teams to go to the Snoopy Sr. World Hockey Tournament in Santa Rosa, Calif., in July. To join a team of players 60 years and older, contact Brent Carlson at 251-3239. To join a team of players 70 years and older, contact Scheibler at 475-5998.