Submitted by Kait Burgan.
For the last few weeks, we’ve been sharing personal stories from people who have been part of the Nanaimo Clippers Junior A Hockey Team. We started our Legends & Locals series with Jack Priestly, now 82-years old and living in Nanaimo. He played before the BCHL was officially formed.
We checked in with Corey Renwick and Sheldon Rempal, both of whom played just last season; both of whom are on scholarship, playing in collegiate leagues in the US with what looks to be promising hockey careers in their future.
Last week, we touched base with Michael Olsen, who took the team all the way to the Fred Page and Doyle Cups in 2004.
While it’s the boys on the ice that fans cheer for and whose careers and lives we follow, some of the biggest players had no intentions of making it onto the ice at all. These MVP’s are the volunteers who ensure that everything runs smoothly before, during and after the game and indeed, they are legendary locals.
If you’ve been to a game anytime in the last three decades, you’ve probably noticed Gary Dorland selling 50/50 tickets. He’s hard to miss in his bright orange Nanaimo Clippers t-shirt, black suspenders and long white beard.
In the late 1980’s Dorland was volunteering with a group of bikers for the Nanaimo Hospital Toy Run. They raised money and stuffed animals to use at the children’s ward of the Nanaimo Hospital, and the Clippers helped out with their hot dog sales. Things went well, and the Clippers asked them for some help selling programs and 50/50 tickets in the foyer at upcoming games. A year later, Dorland moved into the stands during game time, and it’s safe to say that he’s been part of the atmosphere ever since.
I asked him how many games he’s missed in the almost 30 years he’s been volunteering. “Hmm,” he said. “Maybe about seven, and they were all because I couldn’t get off work.” Dorland worked at the Nanaimo Daily News, and before that the Nanaimo Times, on the production side of things. In addition to selling 50/50 tickets for the Clippers, he now manages and maintains the Clippers’ website and is instrumental in creating many of the advertising campaigns you see – from the calendar magnets to the programs.
“There was one time my mum called,” Dorland says, still contemplating how many games he’s missed. “I had to go help her, but I made it back before the game was over.” He grins, proud of his commitment and accomplishment. He says volunteering is in his blood.
“I don’t know if volunteering was necessarily taught to me,” he says. We’re sitting in the sunshine outside Frank Crane. “I became a volunteer firefighter when I was 17, in Nanoose, and I was there for 30, 31 years. That really instilled volunteering and giving back to your community.” Dorland also volunteers with the Nanaimo Timbermen Lacrosse and VI Raiders Football teams, although he doesn’t wear his Clippers colours for those.
For those of you that count steps might be wondering how many Dorland puts in during a game and the answer is, he doesn’t know! He tried using a step counter once but it didn’t work, and to this day, he has no idea if he’s hitting his 10,000. My guess is that he knocks those off during the first period.
“Fans have thanked me for the job that I do here. In fact, there’s one fan who has given me Christmas presents for the job I do.”
For many regulars, buying 50/50 tickets from Dorland is part of the Clippers experience. “I can’t say it’s a role. I’m just selling tickets, getting everyone’s attention, trying to make sure I get to everyone. There have been a few games in the past where I just haven’t been able to get to everyone because we’re so busy.” Dorland is practical, thorough and gentle and he would never go so far as to call some ticket buyers crazy, but he does note their uniqueness.
“When you’re selling 50/50 tickets there’s all sorts of weird rituals that you’ll see. There are some people who will only buy at a certain time of the game. Even though you come by them three times, they’ll only buy at a certain time of the game. We used to have different colour tickets, and I have had people tell me, ‘I don’t care if I win or lose, just as long as I have all the colours.’ One person actually ran around to the other side of the rink, to another seller, to complete their colour collection.”
Dorland likes being a part of the Clipper experience, and when asked how much of a hockey fan he is, he says, without hesitation, “I’m Canadian. I love hockey! It’s in my blood.”
Hockey loves you too Gary Dorland. Thank you for all that you bring to the game, both in the stands and behind the scenes.
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For more information on the Nanaimo Clippers, and to become a member of the Clippers Hockey Society, visit www.nanaimoclippers.com.
“Suddenly, it’s not out of reach to own a hockey team!”