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Ex-Bison treasures Olympic Stetson

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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

(Olympic) teams,

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

was important

enough for me to

be part of that team

that I did it."

Karpan played

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,"

Karpan said.

"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."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2010 C4

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