The year was 1973…
George Gund, The Father of Sun’s Hockey, had just leased a parcel of land from Bill Jans and Sun Valley Company for a new indoor skating center. The construction was completed in the fall of 1975. At the time there was a group of former hockey players that just happened to get together and decided to skate at the new facility. This crew had no intention or idea the they would be the founding fathers of the storied team and tradition that you all know now as the SunValley Sun’s! They consisted of Alex Orb, Charlie Holt, Nick Orr, David Knott, Hermie Haavik, Doc Burgett, Kim Salmela, John Heinrich, John Weekes and George. These founding fathers of Sun’s Hockey laid groundwork 44 years ago that you are witnessing presently. For 20 years George funded the expenses to keep the team afloat. The initial response from the community was overwhelming. Anywhere from 1000 to 1400 hundred people would pack the Sun Valley Skating Center to watch games. From the Sun’s organization Sun Valley Youth Hockey and Senior League Hockey were formed. These founding fathers are responsible for everything Hockey in the Wood River Valley! Especially George and John Weekes whom belong on the Mount Rushmore of Sun’s Hockey!
In the mid to late 70’s the word spread and a influx of players from Duluth and the East Coast migrated to the Valley. Players from Duluth such as “Rip” Kirby, Dick Nelson, Lenny Green, Phil Hoene (straight from the LA Kings), Jim Maertz, Dale Johnson and Tim Jeneson joined original Sun Hermie Haavik and myself. From the East came Glenn Hunter, Joey McCarthy, Tim Rapplye, Andy Dealy, Rick Schneider, Billy Sheeline, Patrick Kearney, Mark Broz and Dave Hutchinson. By that time Johnny Weekes had taking on the GM and head coaching duties. He was the Sun’s first official Head Coach. Johnny is responsible for laying the groundwork for the Sun’s tradition of family! To a man everyone who played for Coach Weekes loved and respected him. The Hockey was competitive and fun. The crowds were loud and fun! The tradition had started and thrives today with the same principles and beliefs. Give back to the community. Play hard. Have Fun. Respect the game, opponents, officials and teammates. And above all respect the tradition of the Sun’s and represent that tradition honorably.
Rivalries with Aspen, Vail and currently Jackson Hole followed. Players came and left with a large portion making the Valley their home. Players from the NHL, Olympians, Minor leagues, colleges, juniors and Sun Valley Youth Hockey have graced the Sun’s roster. The same can be said for the opposing teams. The Sun’s have taking trips to Japan and Europe. Played the US , Russian, Japanese and Chinese National teams. Hollywood Celebrity Teams and teams from all over North America.
With the newly formed Sun Valley Sun’s Alumni Association it became obvious that over 600 players have worn the Red,Black and White team colors over the years. Special mention to some of those players that worked so hard to keep the tradition alive. First of all George Gund the third. If not for George it never happens. Then the beginning of the coaching tree. John Weekes, whom tirelessly formed the foundation for the future of the team. I followed John and could never live up to the job he did. I as fortunate to coach during the Iron Range invasion of players from Northern Minnesota such as Jimmy and Johnny Finnegan, Billy Claviter, Steve Gentelinni, and Beets Johnson. Then there was Glenn Hunter, who really started the tradition of giving back to the community with our benefit night concept. He also managed to start the long standing tradition of the “George Jacket.” Which is presented to a player after each weekend series. Glenn also had to endure some years without the financial support of George that Coach Weekes and I had. He truly kept the team alive. Tim “Hawk” Jeneson followed Hunts and he to this date is the only coach that brought home a National Championship. Then there was Chris “Fester” Benson who coached in the early 2000 until 2008. Chris certainly did his part to make sure the Sun’s survived some lean years. He’s another example of working hard and giving back to the team that he played and coached for a number of years.
It would not be right not to mention some players who sacrificed a lot of time and effort to keep the Sun’s going. Charles Friedman, Johnny Miller, John “Chugga” Stevens, Jamie Ellison, Villy, Chas Riopel, Jon Duval, Coach Johnny Ellison and David Stone. These guys really worked hard and kept them alive for everyone to see the current edition of the Sun’s.
I know I’ve forgotten some people but please know your all appreciated for your contributions to all things Sun’s.
Special thanks for Davis Love 3 for his continued support.
Once again you the fans are the most important part of the 44 year history. You’ve kept us alive and we’re going to have a wild 50 year anniversary in 6 years! Thank you!
Head Coach, GM, Alumni, John “Cub” Burke