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Aldergrove super fan dubbed ‘hockey grandma’ after years of never missing a game

At 71, Gail Bergen has held Kodiaks’ season tickets for close to a decade
Aldergrove’s oldest superfan, 71-year-old “hockey grandma” Gail Bergen, has attended nearly every Kodiaks game since 2013. She can be heard cheering on her boys during playoffs from the stands. (Sarah Grochowski photo)

Every Kodiak’s playoffs game, since the first Gail Bergen attended in 2013, the 71-year-old has donned her black jeans, black sweater, and orange windbreaker jacket.

Retiree Bergen – one of only a few with season’s tickets – realized a pattern occurred, when she wore that outfit, the Aldergrove Junior B hockey team took the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) championship title.

“But I’m not that superstitious,” she chuckled.

This week, Bergen wore that same old outfit in hopes of history repeating itself – like it did again at 2017 playoffs four years later when the Kodiaks solidified their third sweep of the PJHL.

Bergen was invited onto the ice with player’s families to celebrate their victory.

It was Joshua Poitras’ father, Dax, who asked her to join in on a picture, saying the win was “just as much hers.”

In a similar fashion, the mother of player Matt Oliver, Kristi, asked if her son could have a photograph with Bergen, emphasizing that Oliver did not have a grandma who lived in B.C.

“You can be his hockey grandma,” she implored Bergen, while snapping a picture of the two.

Photographs taken that day now rest on her wall at home.

“I’m the one who’s grateful,” Bergen told the Aldergrove Star after mention of the team’s appreciation.

“To see their talent, and to see these boys thrive – I want that for them.”

Since then, Bergen’s bought season tickets every year that followed. This year was her 10th year buying the bundle.

Hockey memories

Bergen’s love for the sport started early, at age eight, after she and her nine siblings first learned to skate on the pond near their Manitoba home.

Bergen continued pond hockey traditions with her husband and two children years later in Terrace, B.C.

Around the same time, Bergen sought to establish a women’s team with her daughter, who was a teenager in the 1970s.

The team was left playing amongst themselves after learning that no other women in Northern B.C. had expressed interest.

“To get ice time our first year we had to play at midnight on Sundays,” Bergen retold.

“We had a lot of fun,” she said, mentioning it wasn’t until decades after, in 1990, when women’s professional hockey got its start in the country.

Not so surprisingly, in her time on the ice, Bergen has played against a lot of men.

As a mother of a teenage son, Bergen periodically scrummed with other parents, as the only mom. She even injured her shoulder from checking one of the fathers.

Finding community

Bergen and her husband moved to Aldergrove nearly 12 years ago. To her delight, she’s located “just a few minutes away” from the community arena.

And regardless of what’s in store, on Wednesday nights during the regular season, she puts all aside to take part in what she calls “Hockey night in Aldergrove,” at the Aldergrove arena; a fitting name, considering some of Bergen’s fondest memories include listening to Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights in front of her family’s vacuum tube radio.

“No one had TV’s then,” Bergen said, but broadcaster’s play-by-play of hockey action from Canadian games was enough to make her siblings cheer and howl.

“We even got into scraps because we didn’t always root for the same team,” she laughed.

It’s that same love of the game that brought Bergen to her first Kodiak’s game in 2010.

The 71-year-old admits, at some games, she is the loudest in the stands.

“I jump up when they score and holler to encourage the boys,” she said.

The super fan has seen the team through nearly a decade of games, players, and coaches.

Though she admittedly has favourites, she was reluctant to include any current rostered players.

“I like the rough, tough brawny and tumble players,” she said, listing former player Poitras as an example. “He was tough as nails.”

This year, Bergen thinks the Kodiaks have a shot at taking the PJHL title.

The super fan cherishes photographs taken the day Bergen was asked onto the ice with families, following the Kodiak’s 2017 PJHL final win. (Sarah Grochowski photo)