PORT ALICE—Doug Bondue is honoured the Village of Port Alice has chosen to name the town's ice arena after him. But a part of him wonders if the decision is a bit premature.
"Honestly, it's a bit odd," Bondue said after Mayor Jan Allen and councillors unveiled a sign designating the arena Doug Bondue Arena in a short ceremony prior to Friday's commercial league game. "Normally, you have to be dead to get something like this. And I'm alive, so I guess that's good."
Yes, Bondue is alive. And councillors credit his efforts with helping keep the arena in the same condition when a shutdown of the local pulp mill threatened the facility's closure in 2005.
Bondue spearheaded a group that raised $18,000 to help fund expenses at the arena and also convince both council and the incoming new owners of the mill that its continued operation was valuable to the community.
For those efforts, Bondue was nominated and won the 2008 RBC Insurance Local Hockey Leader Award for B.C., an honour that came with a special recognition ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and, more importantly for the Village, a $10,000 prize that Bondue plowed back into Port Alice Minor Hockey.
Two years ago, it was part of a $30,000 donation from minor hockey to the village that led to the purchase of a new ice-cleaning machine.
"Coach Bondue, your dedication to Port Alice has not gone unnoticed," councillor Dave Stewart said while addressing a crowd of more than 60 people. "We are extremely proud of you and your leadership. Our arena has always been called Port Alice Arena. From this day forward, the mayor and council are honoured to give this arena a new name: the Doug Bondue Arena."
Bondue moved to Port Alice with his wife Penny in 1985. Since then, the self-described sports fanatic has served as a player, coach and association executive member for various clubs, "and sometimes all three," Stewart noted.
Bondue said credit belonged to longtime councillors and former mayors like Larry Pepper, Gail Neely and Bruce Lloyd, who made the tough choice to devote Village income to the arena despite the high costs of keeping it open.
But there were no sour grapes for Neely, a councillor in 2005 who later served as mayor and who attended Friday's dedication.
"It's wonderful," she said. "And so deserved. It makes you proud to be able to say you know him."
Although it didn't take away from the surreal feeling Bondue experienced when, as he stood flanked by Stewart and councillor Mark Brackett, Mayor Allen and councillor Janice MacLeod raised the sign bearing his name.
"I thought, 'This isn't heaven, is it?'" Bondue said. "But honestly, in here, for me, is as close to heaven as I can get. I love it; I love the kids."