Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The remarkable careers of Regina Pats alumnus Ed Staniowski

 By Rob Vanstone, Leader-Post January 29, 2013 4:41 PM

The remarkable careers of Regina Pats alumnus Ed Staniowski

Former Regina Pats and NHL netminder, Ed Staniowski during a skate before an alumni game at the Brandt Centre on January 28, 2013.

Photograph by: Don Healy , Regina Leader-Post

Ed Staniowski's careers have required him to stand in front of shots or do his utmost to avoid them.
Yet, there are several similarities between his roles as a goalkeeper and a peacekeeper. In many ways, the attributes possessed by a successful hockey player are applicable in an organization such as the Canadian Forces.

"The military is discipline. It's dedication. It's teamwork,'' the former Regina Pats star says.
"It's all the things that we have to have to be successful in hockey, so there is a commonality.''
Staniowski is quick to emphasize that there are limits to the comparison.

"The consequence of service to country in the military can be far greater, of course,'' he says. "The good that comes out of it, the positives, can be very rewarding. It may not be for everybody, but I would certainly encourage a young person to consider it if I'm ever asked my opinion.

"The consequences of service can be very dire, as we all know, and I've tragically lost friends on operations and I've also seen other friends who are seriously hurt. You never want to see that. You never want that to be part of the equation, but regretfully it does happen.

"As a nation, we've certainly experienced it in Afghanistan, and our American brothers and sisters to the south even moreso, in numbers that are too painful. But the friendships that I've got from the military and the friendships that I've got from hockey are the strongest relationships I have outside of my family.''
Staniowski enjoyed the hockey-related friendships Monday when he played in the Regina Pats alumni game at the Brandt Centre.

At 57, he participated in a fundraiser for former Pats captain Kyle Deck, who is battling kidney disease. Staniowski - the victorious goaltender in the 1974 Memorial Cup - seldom straps on the pads, but made an exception to help out a great cause. He travelled to Regina from Belleville, Ont., to lend his good name to the proceedings."I've got some legacy injuries - some of them from hockey, but most of them from the military after,'' he says.

"If I'm playing the game, I'm pretty much just a post. If you thought I was an angle goalie in the '70s, you should see me now.''

Staniowski is now a lieutenant-colonel in the Forces, which he joined in 1985 - the same year in which he concluded a 10-year NHL career - when he became an officer in the Primary Reserves.

Operational tours have taken him to Afghanistan (where he served as recently as 2010), Africa, the Middle East, Bosnia, Egypt, Israel and Cyprus.

In the most dangerous locales, he has been reminded of the occupational hazards on a daily basis.

"You learn to deal with your mortality, certainly, and I'm talking about being on operations now,'' Staniowski says.

"Your training takes over. When you are in contact, when you are being shot at, when you are required to lead men and women who are in harm's way, your focus and your training and your confidence have to take over.

"Things happen very, very fast. Often, you don't have time to think it out. You have to have visualized it before. You have to have trained for it. That's where the similarities to goaltending would kick in. If you've got to think about what Guy Lafleur or Ray Bourque are going to do with that puck, you're probably not going to be very successful.

"I can tell you that when you're on operations and things start happening, if you're forced to stop and think about it, you're probably going to get behind the power curve pretty quickly as a leader.''

Staniowski remains involved in a leadership capacity as the director of the officer training program in Kingston, Ont. He does not expect to return to a combat situation.

"It became very apparent to me in Afghanistan that it's extremely hot and extremely dry,'' he says. "You've got to keep your wits about you. That type of service is a young man's game, and I know the term 'young man' can be relative. But certainly the fittest and the finest in their 20s are the folks that are doing the job in the world of the infantry, anyways.

"For the folks who put on 60, 70 or 80 pounds of equipment and ammunition and then go out in 45-degree Celsius heat and carry it up and down hills and mountains, it's a young man's game. My job more than anything now is to talk about the business. My days of chasing bad men up and down mountains are over.''
Staniowski takes considerable pride in having done that in collaboration with military people for whom he has boundless respect.

"I can tell you this unequivocally: There are some things worth fighting for. There are things worth standing up for,'' he states.

"Sadly, there are some entities and some people who need to be stood up to.

"Thankfully, they're a long way away from most Canadians. For the most part, they're in far-off places, but some of the ideals and some of the principles that are out there, we as Canadians would and should stand up to.
"I do a lot of work with our allies and they know that when it hits the fan, as it did in the '40s and in World War I and in Korea and in other places, Canadians are in the fight and they can count on us.''

Just like people can count on Ed Staniowski.

As a hockey player, he routinely delivered the big save, and he has continued to come through in timely fashion in the military.

In 2007, for example, he received a call from Department of National Defence headquarters. Gen. Rick Hillier was hoping that some former NHL players could visit Afghanistan - with the Stanley Cup.

Staniowski proceeded to contact the NHL's head office in New York and facilitated a fruitful conversation between the league's commissioner, Gary Bettman, and Hillier. The wheels were soon in motion for the Cup to travel to Kandahar with NHL alumni such as Stanio-wski, Dave (Tiger) Williams, Mark Napier, Rick Smith and Rejean Houle.

"Everybody knows Tiger Williams's legacy,'' Staniowski says.

"He's a warrior - a tough guy on the ice. When he gets over there to Afghanistan, he's sitting with groups of soldiers at two or three o'clock in the morning.

"They're coming out of the field and he's sitting there talking to them and listening to what their experiences are.
"He's sharing a little bit of hockey when they want to hear it, but more importantly he's there for them and he's hearing what they've got to share.

"What a connection. It was just brilliant to be a part of that. That was our national game going over for our national presence in Afghanistan.''

And to think that, once upon a time, Staniowski and Williams were on opposite sides in what was then known as the Western Canada Hockey League. The Pats' heated rivalry with the Swift Current Broncos boiled over one memorable night when Williams, a member of the visiting team, ended up in the stands at Regina's Exhibition Stadium.

"There was a time when he would have went over me, through me or around me to defeat me,'' Staniowski says, "but I couldn't think of a better man to have in battle with me.''

Nor could he think of a better reason to return to Regina.

Monday's game raised money for the Kyle Deck Foundation and the Regina Chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

As a bonus, the Moose Jaw-born Staniowski was able to don the sweater of the team for which he played from 1971 to 1975. Those were, according to Staniowski, four of the best years of his life.

"The Pat organization and the current owners, the Parker family, are great people in my mind and great for hockey and great for the Pat organization here in the city,'' Staniowski says.

"When (Pats executives) Brent Parker and Cliff Mapes chatted with me about coming back, the moment I saw that it was possible on my calendar, it was, 'Absolutely.'

"I owe a lot to the Pats. When I say the Pats, I'm talking about the management and the fans at that time, but the legacy goes right through to today. Those who have taken it forward - the current owners and the current fans - you owe them a lot, in my opinion.

"It is about giving something back. I'm in my 50s now, so it's a little harder to give back, but it's still about giving back. For me to come back to Regina, it's just too easy. It's just too right.''