Friday, August 20, 2010

Larry Hornung

National Hockey League fans may not remember Larry Hornung, the Saskatchewan native who played 48 games with the St. Louis Blues in the early 1970s.

But Winnipeg Jets fans in the days of the World Hockey Association will undoubtedly remember him. He played five seasons with the Jets, and another season in the WHA for a total of 371 games.

Prior to jumping to the Jets, the expansion New York Islanders had acquired his NHL playing rights in the 1972 expansion draft. Though he quite likely could have stayed in the NHL with the first year Isles, he quickly opted to switch to the upstart league after Winnipeg offered him a 3 year, $130,500 contract

"The WHA was a good brand of hockey, though in the early years, a lot of teams were moving about," he later recalled.

Hornung really impressed that first year especially. He was named to the WHA Second All Star Team. He settled down into more of a dependable depth type defenseman after that, unspectacular but steady.

Hornung would retire by the end of the decade but he would stay in the game as a long time scout with the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes franchise and later the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also spent some time working with youth in a drug rehabilitation centre in Regina.

Hockey had been good to Larry Hornung, but on the night of March 1st, 1987 hockey turned his life upside down and inside out. His son Brad was a top prospect with the Regina Pats. His bright future in hockey came to a crashing hault when he crashed head first into the boards, crushing his spinal cord and paralyzing him permanently.

 "When I played, I never worried about an injury like that," Larry would later say. "But when your children play, you tend to think more about it. I was there that night and I knew right away it was serious. My heart almost stopped beating. For the most part, his attitude has been excellent. He's in good spirits. He knows the truth, that he'll never walk again, and at first it was hard to accept. But he's taken it well, and he's been a tower of strength for the whole family."

Hornung would continue scouting until 2000 when he discovered he had cancer. The disease took his life on May 8th, 2001.


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