Summerland hockey team serves teammate final beer at hospice window | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Summerland hockey team serves teammate final beer at hospice window

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Mike Skinner
October 08, 2020 - 7:30 AM

A group of Summerland hockey players gave their teammate a fitting send off at a local hospice window with a pack of ice-cold beer late last month.

Ron “Shack” Rutkowski, 68, has played hockey for more than 25 years with the Summerland Old Timers and was an instrumental part of the Okanagan beer league team. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and was in the hospice when his teammates came to say goodbye.

It was a team decision to give Shack a sendoff, said friend and teammate Mike Skinner, and they managed to do so through the hospice window beside his bed.

The Old Timers donned their jerseys for Shack and brought tunes, beer and his favourite blue cheese burger to the hospice, Sept. 29. They gave the items to the nurse, who then gave it to Shack.

“He took a big chug of that beer and he looked out the window at us and said ‘my favourite ingredients,’” he said.

Shack died last week.

“That culture and that team was so inspiring, you want to be out there with him every day,” Skinner said. “His main position was probably court jester, you could say.”

The team took turns saying goodbye to him through the window as he enjoyed his beer on the other side.

“It was a really special moment, there weren’t too many dry eyes… the common theme was he was the guy who made people feel welcome,” Skinner said.

Image Credit: Submitted / Mike Skinner

Every Thursday, Shack’s truck would be in Skinner’s driveway, ready to take him to the game. The pair became instant friends when they met.

Teammate Gus Cave fondly remembered the time he beat Shack at a leg wrestle after a game in Nelson, which had become a staple of the Old Timers after-game hangouts. Shack was the reigning champion.

The lead up to the game included Shack walking along the streets of Nelson with the team bus, his teammates, and speakers blaring beside him.

“We came up to four way stops, and people waited for the bus and Shack to walk through. It was like a parade,” he laughed.

Shack’s favourite NHL player was Canadian Eddie Shack, also know as an entertainer, making Shack a suitable nickname.

Shack may be gone, but the legacy he left behind continues.

“He helped create a culture that pushed the team forward… he’s one of them that kept this team going in a positive direction,” Cave said.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Mike Skinner

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