Dave “Radar” Horning is a man who operates in the shadows and he prefers it that way.
The Red Deer Rebels long-time equipment manager celebrated his 2000th WHL game behind the bench Tuesday at the Centrium and with his family in attendance, was honoured at a first-period stoppage in play.
Horning took his moment in the spotlight, although he would have prefered none at all. He gave the Centrium crowd a gracious nod and a quick wave before he quietly went back to taking care of the players– something he’s done for so many years.
“I was just glad that it happened the way it did and not a big ceremony at centre ice. I’m more of a behind the scenes guy and want to stay that way,” said the man affectionately known around the rink as Radar, even if few know the reason behind it.
Horning will talk your ear off with stories about players, the relationships he has made around the league or any of the wild encounters over the years, but will shy away from any attention for it.
He’s been coming to the rink in Red Deer since 1995 to do his job and that’s just how he likes it. When he started with the Prince Albert Raiders in 1991, Horning was the man of many talents, sharpening skates, curving wooden sticks with hot water and treating injuries as an athletic therapist. It was only in the last few years the two jobs had been separated.
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Born and raised in Innisfail, after he gave up the hockey dream as a goalie, he went to the University of Alberta and got a degree in physical education and specialized in athletic therapy.
“Loved playing the sport. I was a goaltender. Played all my minor hockey there. Tried pursing the junior thing myself. Pretty sure size and stature had a little bit to do with not being successful as I wanted to be at the time,” he said.
“Wanting to stay in the sport somehow, got a degree in physical education. Majored in athletic injuries. Back in the day, most teams only had one guy.”
In many ways, Horning has used that passion for the game and taken it over and above the call of duty.
Long-time play-by-play man Cam Moon, who has been the voice of the Rebels for nearly two decades said beyond longevity, Horning has always been one of the good guys in the game.
On top of running an extremely tight ship when it comes to jerseys, skates, sticks, water bottles and many other behind the scene hockey ventures, Horning also takes time to formulate good relationships with the players, past and present.
“He really loves the job. Real pro. Just the guy that takes care of all the little details. Nothing gets missed,” Moon said.
“Players like him and that’s important. In that job, you have to have a good rapport with players and good rapport with the coaches. Good rapport with the other staff from other teams and Radar has a great rapport with all of them. That’s important to make everything work smoothly.”
Brandon Hagel, second on the Rebels all-time franchise scoring list and veteran of 258 games in Red Deer, said Radar has helped him in so many ways over the years.
“The guy is an absolute legend in the league. Nothing but good to all of us. We get along pretty well and I think that’s a huge part of a hockey team,” Hagel said.
“You can talk to the guy about absolutely anything… he’s always there for you and supporting you no matter what.”
Another spot where his longevity will be measured is Sunday when the Kootenay ICE close up shop in Cranbrook. Horning was there for the first ICE game in franchise history and will also be there for the last.
“It will be something to see. I haven’t seen a franchise at its end. It will be interesting to see,” Radar said.
Horning isn’t exactly sure how many more games he’ll be behind the bench for after the most recent milestone but he still loves coming to the rink every day.
“Being in an environment that I grew up being involved in and still being able to be involved to this day is a pleasure,” he said.
With the big game behind him, Radar can now go back to the place he enjoys most, flying under the radar.