BY SAMANTHA ELLIOTT
Trenton and high school hockey success go together as well as any cliché pairing one could come up with. But at some point the matchup did not go hand in hand; at some point, Trenton hockey had to start.
On Dec. 3, the Trenton High School hockey program honored its first ever high school hockey team when six members and the first ever coach returned to Kennedy Ice Rink for a 50 year reunion.
The members of the 1966-1967 team included Mike Honsowitz, Freeman Floyd, Jim Jasbrides, Rich Appleby, Dan Cusin, Lauri McDonalds and head coach Dick Homovec. Not in attendance were Gene Slater, Bob Cook, Rov Roeder, Larry Hagan, Bill Reynolds and Dan Atwood. The team also had a moment of silence for deceased members John Peffer, Dale Gardner, Dennis Wirtel, Roger Pattemore, Greg Brenrasg and Bill Rayburn.
That first year, the Trojans finished with a 6-5-3 record, good enough for second in the league.
“We outperformed all the critics,” Appleby said at the ceremony. “They said we were going to be a last-place team and we ended up taking second place that year. We were pretty competitive.”
Coach Homavec knew that although the program — and he himself — were young, it was going to be a success.
“I was right out of college at the time, so I was almost as green as the kids,” he said. “Right from the get-go, I knew it was going to be a success because of the feeder program. These kids had played years before so it was an easy transition.”
Homovec coached the program for three years, but said hockey players are unique and the memories are endless.
“Compared to these other sports, hockey is a very unique sport,” he said. “I just went back to my college in October and we’ve kept in touch; we’ve kept in touch all these years. Hockey players just seem to bond.”
The Trojans started that year playing in Windsor against Catholic Central, who they lost to, but only by one goal. That’s when the support of the program started.
“They were supposed to kill us,” Homovec said. “We played our first home game and had like 300 people come to the game. Our next game, we had over 1,000 people. The rink wasn’t supposed to hold 1,000 people.”
The early years of the program included opponents that the team still faces today including; CC, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Ann Arbor Huron, Brother Rice and Cranbrook.
For Appleby, who was a junior when the team started, it was an easy start. He was simply playing with his friends.
“I grew up with those guys,” Appleby said. “We started playing hockey together (and) it was just like playing hockey with all your buddies. Most of us stay in touch today. Hockey’s kind of tied us together over the years.”
Having fun sticks out the most for Appleby and his teammates and coach.
“The only fight I ever got into in my life was in practice,” he said. “Coach came up to us and said, ‘What are you two knuckleheads doing?’ and we said ‘We’re not sure!’”
When they were in a game, everyone supported everyone.
“The camaraderie of the players and the friendships you develop over those years, all the guys were good hockey players,” Appleby said. “Everyone scored goals, everyone had assists. No one really paid attention to that particular aspect. It was just a fun part of the game.”
As the years went on, players came and went and the Trenton hockey program grew into its well-respected reputation of today.
Chad Arthur played for the program in high school, was a part of a state championship team, and now coaches the program that gave him so much.
“It was great to meet all those guys and great to meet the guy that started it,” Arthur said. “They had some great words of wisdom for the kids in the locker room. This is how much it meant playing here and still to this day how much they appreciate playing here. It’s something that we all tell the kids, but it’s nice to have the guys come back and tell them.”
The pride in the program resonated throughout the night for players present and past and Arthurs was happy to be a part of it.
“It speaks wonders about our program; the idea that guys give so much and then have a positive experience and it stays with them the rest of their lives and watching them talk to each other and share memories from 50 years ago was neat,” he said. “I think they liked going out onto the ice and being recognized, but they liked being in that setting again with those old groups of friends.”
Being back at Kennedy Ice Rink was not something Homovec will soon forget.
“The older you get, your memories become more important because life’s about building them,” Homovec said. “And anytime you get to go back to something like this, you appreciate it.”