Brothers Matty (second from left) and Tyler Gillies perform the ceremonial puck drop Wednesday before the Island junior B game between the Westshore Wolves and Saanich. The Braves' Jack Rachwalski

West Shore hockey stick and skate specialist was well loved

Langford's Al Gillies to be celebrated in Tuesday memorial

Al Gillies was a people person, first and foremost.

The kind-hearted Langford resident made an impact in the region’s hockey community through his work rebuilding composite hockey sticks, doing graphic sports designs and working as a trainer and equipment manager alongside friend, co-worker and business partner John Smith.

“Even though Al would reach out when other communities asked for help, he would always be the first person there to help them,” said Smith, also a Langford resident.

Gillies lost his six-year battle with cancer on Feb. 12 at age 48. A public celebration of life is planned for next Tuesday (Feb. 23) from 2 to 4 p.m. at Olympic View Golf Club.

Smith tells a story to illustrate the kind of guy Gillies was.

It seems a young minor hockey player from Saanich was apparently being picked on because he was still using a wooden stick, when everyone else was using the high-tech composite models. The player paid Gillies a visit at his shop and saw logos of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, Spokane Chiefs and others scattered around the workspace. Asked by Gillies if he was there to get a stick, the young man sheepishly told him he only had $15.

“(Al told him) your money’s no good here, pick any two,” said Smith, who watched the scene unfold and saw the player’s face light up. “It didn’t matter to him, he was just a people person.”

In honour of their dad, who helped out the Westshore junior B team as well as the Victoria Grizzlies and Salsa, Gillies’ twin sons Matty and Tyler, 20, shared the ceremonial puck-drop duties last week at The Q Centre before the Wolves played the Saanich Braves. The Grizzlies honoured Gillies before a game last weekend.

His sons spent plenty of hours in the rink helping out their dad and Smith with trainer duties during Victoria Grizzlies games between 2004-09.

“I liked being here on the weekends … when dad was here as well,” Matty said of their time together.

He and Tyler, who are both working on business administration degrees at Camosun College, specializing in accounting, also play three-on-three hockey together at the Island Centre of Excellence (ICE).

One of Tyler’s favourite memories of being at Bear Mountain Arena (now The Q Centre) with Al was when they helped out Team U.S.A. during an international under-18 mini-tournament.

Smith, nearing 30 years of work as a civilian with the Department of National Defence in Esquimalt, worked in the same department with Gillies for about eight years. Their side businesses included Pro Stick Repair, which they franchised and later sold, and Capital City Signs, which which Smith has continued.

He joked that he was Gillies’ boss during the day and the roles were reversed at night and on the weekends.

“He’s a guy that I worked with during the day, had two businesses with, volunteered thousands of hours with the Grizzlies, and I never had an argument with him,” Smith said. “That was the kind of guy he is, right? (It was) never about him. That what’s his celebration is about, it’s about him; for the first time everything’s about him – a tribute to him.”

Smith took a leap and set up a GoFundMe page on Tuesday to defray the cost of putting Gillies’ affairs in order for his wife, Lisa, who knew nothing about the gesture. As of Thursday evening, the fund had received 47 donations, pushing the total over $6,100, well past the listed goal of $4,200.

A number of donors shared their thoughts and memories about Gillies. To donate or pass along a message, visit gofundme.com/7cp79ff8.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

9 Victoria-area restaurants make top 100 most scenic dining list

Open Table compiled the list by reviews from diners between June 1, 2018 and May 31 of this year

Justin Trudeau’s carbon footprint revealed in ranking of world leaders

Travel company ranks 15 world leaders’ foreign flight CO2 emissions

Average rent for one-bedroom in Victoria nears $1,400: PadMapper

Victoria sixth in Canada for most expensive rent

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

VIDEO: 1,400 classic cars roll into Victoria for Deuce Days

The four-day festival highlights classic hot rods, with a special emphasis on cars built in 1932

POLL: Do you carry reusable shopping bags?

While a court ruling determined the City of Victoria’s plastic bag ban… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of July 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. First Nation’s group using ads in Texas targeting company for fuel spill

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Most Read