EDITOR’S NOTE: On Saturday, May 13, the Orillia Sports Hall of Fame will welcome its newest inductees. The class of 2022 includes athletes Alan Brahmst and John French in addition to builder Dave Dunn. This is the final profile of the three inductees.
If you’ve been to a hockey game in Orillia or Rama, you have likely seen Dave Dunn.
He might be quietly cradling his Tim Hortons coffee along the corner boards, keeping a watchful eye on the action. He may be wading through the bleachers selling 50/50 tickets or opening the rink doors to let the players off the ice.
But it’s what you don’t see Dunn doing that is remarkable.
For the better part of four decades, Dunn has quietly, with little fanfare, done just about anything that is necessary to ensure kids and youth can play minor hockey, or junior hockey or AAA hockey.
It started when his own son began playing hockey, prompting Dunn to help coach the team. Then, he was asked to join the Orillia Minor Hockey Association board; he served many roles, including that of president.
He then volunteered with the city’s junior hockey teams in its various iterations — the Orillia Laidlaws, the Orillia Terriers and the Couchiching Terriers — serving in roles from president to OMHA delegate.
At some point, he began volunteering for the North Central Predators AAA program headquartered in Rama.
Even now, he serves as registrar for both the Preds and the Jr. C Terriers.
For Dunn, hanging around a rink is like sitting in a comfortable chair; it’s his happy place.
“I just simply love the game,” Dunn explained. “I love the kids that come through. It gives me great pleasure.”
He references players like Brett Burns, Dan Girardi and Fred Brathwaite who played junior hockey in Orillia before making their mark in the NHL.
“I remember when Bill Ranford got hurt and the cameras focused on Freddy Brathwaite getting ready to come in for a playoff game for Edmonton,” Dunn recalled. “That was something.”
And while Dunn shuns the spotlight, he concedes that young hockey players would never be able to realize their dreams without the legion of volunteers that help to form the backbone of the sport.
“As a very knowledgeable person said to me recently, you can have all the money in the world to spend, but without volunteers, you couldn’t be successful in junior hockey,” Dunn said. “There’s no question that you do need volunteers.”
Roger Crandell, the longtime president of the Predators, agrees. It’s why he nominated Dunn for membership in Orillia’s Sports Hall of Fame as a builder.
Crandell said Dunn has long been a critical volunteer for multiple junior hockey teams in Orillia and was a mainstay through thick and thin, in good years and bad.
“He would spend game nights doing anything from loading beer for the booster club, to organizing and selling 50/50 tickets, making sure the refs got paid and was security when fights broke out in the stands,” said Crandell.
Bill Smith owned some of those teams. He said guys like Dunn were the lifeblood of the team and critical to its success.
“Junior hockey wouldn’t happen without guys like (Dunn),” said Smith. “He was always there and always did whatever needed to be done.”
That was a sentiment echoed by longtime Terriers GM Andrew McDonald in an interview with OrilliaMatters in 2020.
“He does everything from banking and treasury, registering players, he helps me hang curtains, he helps me run around on game night, he helps with the 50/50,” McDonald explained.
“He is never standing still. He is always doing something that helps us and makes us a better team,” he added.
“The amount of time that he gives as a volunteer is unbelievable … and we are better for it.”
Dunn said he is happy to be able to give of his time - something he started soon after moving to Orillia. His policing career began in 1967 in Toronto; he landed in Brechin later that year and moved to Orillia in 1976.
Ironically, Dunn never played organized hockey as a kid growing up in Toronto. He played shinny and the “pinnacle” of his career, he jokes, was playing in an industrial league while he was going to police college.
Despite that, he can’t see himself not involved in the game. He says he has no plans to stop.
“I enjoy it,” he said.
As for being inducted into the Orillia sports shrine, he admits he was surprised.
“I think it is very nice I was nominated and approved,” said Dunn, who never gave of his time for accolades. “I am honoured, to say the least. I don’t really know what to say.”
There are some tickets still available for the seventh annual Orillia Sports Hall of Fame gala. Tickets for the May 13 event at Hawk Ridge are $125 and are available by emailing [email protected]
-- With files from Tyler Evans