VAUGHN KARPAN has changed hats
in the game of hockey many times
since he played for the University of
Manitoba Bisons from 1983 to 1985, but
he's hung on to one for 22 years.
The 48-year-old native of The Pas,
who played for Team Canada in the
1984 and 1988 Winter Olympic Games
in Sarajevo and Calgary, still has his
white cowboy hat from the 1988 opening
ceremonies in Calgary.
"I've still got it. The opening ceremonies
of the Olympics is pretty special,
particularly when you're the host
country," said Karpan, who was in
Winnipeg as the guest speaker at the
U of M Bisons hockey teams' fundraising
dinner Wednesday. He also visited
his sister Cynthia, a U of M professor,
and his sister Stephanie, who lives in
Brandon with husband Russ Paddock,
the Brandon Bobcats men's volleyball
coach. Karpan now lives near Vancouver
with his wife Marjorie and sons
Nicholas, 19, and William, 12.
"I was, without a doubt, the least talented
player on both
but I ran into a guy,
(head coach) Dave
King, who saw the
strengths in my
game and I guess I
was smart enough
to figure out what
he wanted and it
enough for me to
be part of that team
that I did it."
with Canada's national men's hockey
team on a full-time basis from 1985 to
"I was a penalty-killer and a checker,
usually against one of the other team's
top two lines. That was my role and I
did it to the best of my ability," he said.
"I wasn't so impressed with myself to
think that I was anything different than
what the coach thought, and that (playing
a role) is part of being on a team."
With the 2010 Olympics set to open in
Vancouver, Canada's men's team was
put together in recent months with a
full complement of NHL players. It
looked a lot different when Karpan,
now an amateur scout for the Montreal
Canadiens, played 224 international
games for Team Canada. He travelled
the globe with the team as part of a fulltime
program under Hockey Canada.
"One stretch, we played 24 games in
40 nights in 20 different places. It was
tough. There were no guarantees that
you'd be on the team from one day to
the next and it made you stronger,"
"For me, the Olympics was about the
journey there, not the two weeks there.
It was surviving day to day, week to
week over a period of three years and
never having a guarantee. I just wasn't
one of those guys who could get comfortable.
The Olympic movement was
typically a four- or eight-year process
to get to your moment in the Olympic
Times have changed, Karpan said.
"There was a lot less teams in the
NHL, there were no Eastern European
players in the NHL and the commitment
to being in the Olympics wasn't
there from the NHL, so it was a real
opportunity for fringe NHL players
to continue to develop at a high level,"
Karpan said, noting he, Trent Yawney
and Chris Felix were the only three
players who played from 1985-88.
Karpan said he's owes a lot to his university
hockey days. The Bisons won
two Great Plains Conference championships
when he was there.
"Truthfully, I really wasn't going to
have much of a career in hockey if I
hadn't gone to the U of M. I never would
have been a national team player," said
Karpan, who earned his bachelor of
arts degree from the U of M.
"Wayne Fleming (former Bisons head
coach) deserves all the credit in the
world. He was a guy that saw the positives
in me as a player and a person and
gave me every opportunity to grow. It
was just a special time."