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Retirement has been a kick for Hanik

Retired school teacher and soccer enthusiast Walter Hanik was born in 1939 and grew up in East Germany. His family fled to West Germany when he was just 14 years old. Three years later, his family immigrated to Canada and settled in Vernon in 1956.
Walter Hanik taught Grade 11 and 12 math in Prince George for 34 years. His other passion is soccer.

Retired school teacher and soccer enthusiast Walter Hanik was born in 1939 and grew up in East Germany. His family fled to West Germany when he was just 14 years old. Three years later, his family immigrated to Canada and settled in Vernon in 1956.

Due to circumstances beyond his control,Walter had been out of school for five years. He started Grade 10 in Vernon in 1958 and graduated from high school in 1960 at the age of 21.

Walter said "It is never too late to go to school."

In 1961, he started his studies at UBC and graduated in 1964 with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and mathematics. The following year he went back to UBC to take his teacher's training and received his teaching licence in 1965. In 1973 he earned his master's degree in mathematics from Western Washington State College.

In 1963, Walter met Joyce Arnold, a school teacher from Vernon. They were married in 1965 and Walter persuaded Joyce to move to Prince George. They only intended to stay in Prince George for two or three years and then move back to the Okanagan, however they have been here ever since.

Joyce was born in Saskatchewan and grew up in Vernon. Throughout her teaching career, she mainly taught Grades 1 and 2, specializing in special education working with special needs children at Central Fort George, Highland and Seymour elementary schools.

She taught school from 1965 to 1979 and then quit in order to raise their daughter Heather. When Heather started school, Joyce went back to her career and worked as a substitute teacher.

As a teacher, Walter taught Grades 11 and 12 math for 34 years. He started out at Kelly Road, Duchess Park and D.P. Todd followed by 24 years at PGSS and then back to Kelly Road again until he retired in 1999.

Walter confessed he is still doing calculus calculations on a regular basis just to keep his skills sharp on the subject.

He started a very successful high school soccer team at a time when there were no other teams to play against here in Prince George. The team had to travel all the way to Lillooet and Ashcroft for competitive games.

Years later in 1973, after winning in the local zone playoff in Lillooet, he took the first soccer team from Prince George to the B.C. Provincial Games. It was a wonderful experience for the entire team. Reflecting back Walter sadly said, "Unfortunately the following year six members of my soccer team drowned in the 1974 Willow River tragedy here in Prince George. It was the saddest moment of my coaching career when we learned that we lost team members Bryan Weaver, Dwight McFarland, Bob Haney, Paul Trudeau, Ian Rice and Jeff Pick along with the loss of their friends David Walker and Murray Sales."

Over the years, Walter took his high school teams to the provincials a total of five times.

After he retired from his teaching career he organized the Grand Masters Division of the B.C. Indoor Soccer League. At first they played at the Roll-A-Dome but now they play at the Northern Sport Centre on Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Walter is the eldest player on the team at 77 years of age, followed by Harold Hacker at 75. The other 16 original Grand Masters on the team since 2004 are Kuldip Aulagh, Kalvin Basi, Gil Bothello, Paul Bowles, Richard Boyes, Nick Buck, Tony Ciolfitto, Jim Elson, Joe Ferrante, Martin Hooke, George Kaweesi, John McLaughlin, Alfie Mills, Roy Olsen, Angelo Pantuso and Richard Ryan. Later Les Dillabough, Amri Jahromi, Joe Kavanagh, Karl Liedl, Tony Preston, Ranjit Ranu, Zsolt Sary, Steve Callahan, Jacob Madjity and Bill Simpson joined the team.

Walter explained, "We don't have a need for a specific referee because all the guys on the team act as referees. It's simple: you come in and put on either a red or a white T-shirt and that is the team you are on for the day. It is a fun way for Grand Masters to stay in shape and keep old friendships growing. The league is very popular and we have an extensive waiting list."

Walter has been kicking that soccer ball around for the past 72 years, which means he started at the young age of five years old. In his much younger days he played on a youth soccer team in Germany. The years went by and he became part of the Mainland League First Division team playing for the UBC Thunderbirds. He played for two years in the Coast League which was, at that time, the top league in B.C.

I asked Walter what his greatest accomplishment was and he said, "I am proud to see that many of my students have done so well and have gone on to do great things and have great careers."